Nats 1760 – Lecture 16 – The Automobile



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NATS 1760 – Lecture 16 – The Automobile

- The automobile is pervasive & integrated in North America

- Pervasive: millions \owned, millions produced

- Integrated: many social activities pursued in cars

- Automobiles predate majority of population

- restrictions on use: licensing and cost of operation

- Cars are intertwined with pop culture, North American values; individual freedom, economic prosperity, sign of adulthood

- altered urbanization, expansion reinforced car



Current Concerns about The Automobile


- Internal combustion engine, gasoline, greenhouse gasses

- Scale of automobile use, exhaust as an environmental and health problem

- Reducing car emissions, targets, reduce total number, reduce pollution of individual cars.

- Hybrid cars now available, electric cars are soon promised

- Changing design of car to solve problem is “technological fix”

- Changing the way cars are used (carpooling) is social fix


Kirsch and the Electric Car

- Electric, gas & steam cars, turn of century

- 1898 a New York Sun article stated that,

At that busy corner, Grand Street and the Bowery, there may be seen cars propelled by five different methods of propulsion – by steam, by cable, by underground trolley, by storage battery and by horses. [Kirsch, 11]

- 1885 Gottlieb Daimler & Carl Benz, liquid benzene fuel for cars

- 1887, Rudolph Diesel, compressed fuel injection

- Commercial electric and steam cars predated gasoline powered cars

- First electric car in 1894, electric cabs in NY in 1897


The Competition

- horse & automobile

- between 800,000 and 1.3 million pounds of manure each day in New York City

- Automobile, technological fix

- Automobiles expensive, heat and cold, further and faster than horse

- expanding populations, manufacturing and production, shipping capacity


- Automobiles and horses, military and commerce, WWII, rural and poor

Automobiles, Technology and Science


- Turn of century, steam power well developed, 150 years experience with steam engines & trains, thermodynamics

- Electrical technology: electromagnetic theory, electric trams, lighting, power generation and battery development from the laboratory tradition meant that electricity was very well understood

- Internal combustion less-developed technology, less experience, benefited from science (thermodynamics & chemistry), and steam technology

- Science (chemistry, thermodynamics, electromagnetism), technology (steam engines and electrical motors)

- Rudolf Diesel,

… traced the origin of the engine he invented to his training at the Munich polytechnic. In 1878 he heard a lecture there on Carnot’s theorem concerning the ideal conditions for expansion of gases in an engine’s cylinder… this ideal, as he later wrote, ‘pursued me incessantly’. [Pacey, 172]

- Carnot’s scientific work, Diesel engine, steam engine data

- Carnot’s increase in temperature increased efficiency of heat engine, gasoline burns hot


Steam Cars


- Lighter, high pressure & temperature

- Steamboat, train boiler explosions 1800’s, stigma

- Steam flexible , gasoline, kerosene, wood or coal

- Pure water, clogging, unreliable, expensive to fix, and too dangerous


Electric Cars


- Electric engine flexibility, 2-3X rated power (hills, mud), gasoline stall

- Stopped & restarted easily, commercial use

- Fueling, technical & organizational challenges

- 1909 over 4000 central charging stations over United States

- Standardization poor, charging technology unreliable

- Electric industry ignored, vanity technology

- Batteries: limited storage capacity, charging times varied

- Long distance rail shipping, local by automobile, electric cars sufficient

- Markets expanded, greater range of internal combustion advantage

- Electric motors: frequent small adjustments by experts

- Private clients, speed, range & performance, commercial clients wanted cost-effectiveness and a respectable range

Internal Combustion Cars


- Internal combustion engines initially less reliable & efficient

- Internal combustion lighter, higher speeds, accidents, wear and tear, social menace, initially constant breakdowns

- Simpler to fix, little technical knowledge

- Sensitive to fuel impurities, engine problems until fuel standardized

- Gasoline & kerosene widely available, heating and lighting

- Long distance touring (private users), before gas stations

- Infrastructure investment not needed in the beginning

Gasoline as a Fuel

- Mid-1800’s, oil in US, chemical analysis at university, commercial applications

- Early 1900’s, electric lighting replacing kerosene, need for new demand

- Gasoline: low flash point and a high temperature of combustion

- Cracking method, gasoline from crude oil

- Oil has complex, heavy, long chain molecules, “cracked” or broken down to produce lighter kerosene and gasoline

- By 1911, chemists working for oil companies developed methods to crack petroleum using high temperatures and pressures

- Improvements eliminated “knock”, increased efficiency & purity


Advantages of Internal Combustion

- Private users liked range, simplicity; ease of fuelling

- Electrical industry ignored car market, failed to standardize

- Oil industry saw demand for cars, innovated to meet needs

- Businesses liked range & reliability for growing urban population

- Military adoption of gasoline engine gave it early support

- Chemical improvements: cheap, plentiful and efficient fuel

- Population growth, cheap automobiles, the desire to travel far and fast, all contributed to the demand for the internal combustion car

- Expanding urban population also demanded products & services, this drove the commercial adoption of internal combustion vehicles

Kirsch’s Argument


- Electric car initially more flexible, comparable range for most applications, and of sufficient speed

- Gasoline cars were more prone to breakdowns (knock, stalling, general), less reliable, easier to fix

- Improvements expected for electric, success of industry

- While waiting, consumers chose IC cars IC cars then improved, uel & engine efficiency

- “waiting” for competitive battery, IC dominated market, standard technology

The Rise of the Internal Combustion Automobile


- 1913 - 1929, annual car & truck manufacturing increased from 1/2M to 4.5M+, most internal combustion

- By 1914 35,000 electric & 1.5M internal combustion cars.

- Federal, state & industrial investment in car infrastructure: roads, fuel, repair facilities, parking lots, traffic police, courts, insurance

- 1927, annual car-related deaths 21,000+, injuries higher

- WWII contributed to the domination of the IC automobile

- Postwar industrialization & rising populations increased demand, oil price shocks in 1970’s, improvements in production & design, no significant reduction in demand


Lessons from the Past

- People expect long distance travel, speed, standardized parts

- Industry, commerce, labor and urban development, fast, fuel-efficient vehicles.

- Hybrid cars and performance requirements.

- infrastructure, charging technology, road infrastructure

- Effect of attaching millions of electric cars to electricity grid



- 25% of electrical power in Canada fossil fuel generated

- electric cars: traffic volume, accidents, urban planning

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