Continuing with our series of significant objects in the history of motoring, this latest object is really a bit of a ‘no-brainer’! Vehicle technology has been dominated by the next object: the internal combustion engine. It became successful because it proved to be dependable, convenient and affordable. There was also an abundant fuel supply which could be delivered to the vehicle in seconds. Modern engines are cleaner and much more efficient than their predecessors. Today however, there are compelling reasons to find alternatives. There are grave concerns about of the effects of pollution and fears over global warming. We are aware that the supply of easily recoverable oil will not last for ever; it will become more expensive to find and extract. Governments and city authorities are setting emission-free targets and manufacturers are pressing ahead with hybrid or all electric vehicles. Yet the internal combustion engine will not suddenly disappear while issues around battery technology – like the reliance on rare metals, low range on each battery charge and excessively long recharging time – remain unresolved.
This is a standard four-stroke, four cylinder engine, as used in millions of cars around the world. This cut-away picture demonstrates the classic engine cycle showing intake, compression, ignition and exhaust – otherwise known as suck, squeeze, bang, blow! Other engines in our cars and motorcycles include the straight six-cylinder, single cylinder two-stroke, the V-twin and the V-eight, but they are all versions of the internal combustion engine.
More detail on the history of the Internal Combustion Engine, plus other topics in our series of articles on the Impact of Motoring, can be found on our website under the Exhibitions tab.