Automobiles are vehicles that are used for the transport of passengers or cargo. They are powered by an internal combustion engine that uses a volatile fuel to generate power and propel the vehicle forwards. The most common fuels for automobiles are gasoline, diesel, CNG and electricity.
The automobile is a complex machine with thousands of component parts that are designed for specific functions. They are arranged in different subsystems to form the body, chassis, engine, transmission, drivetrain and control systems of the car.
Modern cars have been in use for over a century and there are currently more than 1.4 billion in operation globally, with around 70 million new ones built each year. Passenger cars have become the dominant mode of transportation in most countries, with a typical family car covering over three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) every year.
In the late 1600s, the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder that could move the “horseless carriage” – which he called an automobile – at high speed without needing the services of a horse. Electric and steam engines were soon developed, but their weight and size limited their usefulness. The first petrol-powered cars were introduced in the early 1900s, and the automotive industry rapidly expanded.
Although sport utility vehicles have grown in popularity, sedans still offer great space and a fun-to-drive experience. A car like the Mazda CX-5 is our pick for the best seven-passenger SUV, while the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are also reliable choices.