Learn how vehicle power sources have changed and what the future of cars might be
Everybody loves classic cars, don’t they? Whether it’s the rough edges of American muscle from the 1960s or the stately curves of a 1950s Rolls Royce, we all know that older cars were the best. Right? Well, there were a lot of ups and downs to get to those mid-century automotive marvels. Your parents’ and grandparents’ cars might have been cool, but your great grandparents or even great-great-grandparents’ cars were… something else. Powered vehicles have been operating in various forms for centuries. They’ve run on gasoline, electricity, steam, clockwork, compressed air, and even wind. Yes, over four hundred years ago, vehicles were built that were powered by wind. In the Netherlands, of course. But it was the internal combustion engine that became virtually synonymous with the word automobile. Though they were developed later than steam engines, by World War I they had become the dominant force in auto making. By World War II, steam and electric cars had all but disappeared. Now, some people insist that by the middle of the 20th century, cars had pretty much peaked. But the truth is, like most technology, cars have gotten better over time. New safety features — airbags, backup cameras, accident-avoidance systems, lane departure warnings, and more have helped to dramatically cut the rate of vehicle death. Today’s cars last longer, too. In the 1970s, most cars lasted only a few years — today, ten years or more is a pretty typical lifespan for a passenger vehicle. So, what does the future hold? We know that some automakers are determined to bring electric cars back. But maybe the most exciting question is what company will be first to put truly autonomous cars on the road. At least forty firms are working on the problem so far! So what do you think — is your dream car a classic, or are you more excited to see what the future holds? Why don’t you ask an older relative what they think?