Unlike most inventions, the automobile was not an instant creation by an ingenious inventor; however there are certain landmark moments in the history of the modern day automobile. An estimated 100,000 patents are said to have created the car as we know it. Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton are credited with drawing up the first theoretical plans for a motor vehicle. Nicolas Joseph Cugnot was a French engineer and mechanic, in 1769 he invented the very first self-propelled road vehicle using a steam engine. The French Army used the vehicle to move artillery. This was followed by Nicolas with the design of a tricycle with the ability to carry four passengers and powered by a steam engine. Interestingly enough Cugnot is also the first person to be involved in a motor vehicle accident as he drove one of the vehicles into a stone wall in 1771.
There is debate as to whether the steam powered road vehicles of Nicolas Joseph Cugnot can be categorized as automobiles. People who accept the notion call him the first inventor of the automobile. The design was further improved by Onesiphore Pecqeur in France. In the U.S. Oliver Evans received the patent for a steam-powered land vehicle. A road carriage powered by steam was built in Richard Trevithick in Great Britain in 1801. Steam powered vehicles became relatively popular and many improvements were made to the original designs.
However, the steam engine design proved to be very popular for locomotives but it added too much weight to the road vehicles, which proved to be a major hassle. Although the exact year is uncertain, somewhere between 1832 and 1839 Robert Anderson of Scotland is said to have created the first electric carriage. The Electrical engines had flaws as well; they proved to be heavy, slow and expensive. Additionally, their batteries needed to be recharged frequently. Due to these problems, both the steam powered engines and the electrical engines were abandoned for gas-powered vehicles.
During the early 1900s, the electrical cars had great sales in the United States but by the 1920s, a much better system of roads was built and people needed automobiles that could travel for a long range. After crude oil was discovered in Texas the price of gasoline was reduced father heralding the dawn of gas powered vehicles. Probably, the biggest factor in the popularity of gas powered cars was Henry Ford and his ability to mass produce internal combustion engines. Mass production of these vehicles also made them widely affordable and hence popular. Figures show that whereas a gasoline car could be bought at $650 in 1912, an electric roadster would cost around $1,750. Electric cars all but vanished by 1935 but during the 1960s and 1970s there was major concern regarding the exhaust emissions from internal combustion engines hence there was a need for alternative fueled vehicles. Electric cars were revived partially for utility based jobs for example the United States Postal Service in 1975 bought 350 electric delivery jeeps which were to be used in a test program. Currently, a lot of work and research is being put into manufacturing electric cars as a viable alternative.