Development of the automobile electrical system

Where did it all begin?

The story of electric power can be traced back to around 600 BC, when the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus found that amber rubbed with a piece of fur would attract lightweight objects such as feathers. This was due to static electricity. It is thought that, around the same time, a shepherd in what is now Turkey discovered magnetism in lodestones, when he found pieces of them sticking to the iron end of his crook. When Allesandro Volta invented the storage battery in 1796, he had no idea he was inventing the modern automotive electrical system

William Gilbert, in the sixteenth century, proved that many other substances are ‘electric ‘and that they have two electrical effects. When rubbed with fur, amber acquires ‘resinous electricity’; glass, however, when rubbed with silk, acquires ‘vitreous electricity’. Electricity repels the same kind and attracts the opposite kind of electricity.

A chronological history

The electrical and electronic systems of the motor vehicle are often the most feared, but at the same time can be the most fascinating aspects of an automobile. The complex circuits and systems now in use have developed in a very interesting way.

For many historical developments it is not possible to be certain exactly who ‘invented’ a particular component, or indeed when, as developments were taking place in parallel, as well as in series.

It is not possible to be exact about who conceived particular electrical items in relation to the motor car. Innovations in all areas were thick and fast in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

An eye on the future

The thing is, I intend to spend as much time sleeping in my car as possible, well, when travelling long distances anyway. The whole point of paying the extra money for the ‘Professional’ instead of the ‘Home’ edition of the on-board software was so I could sleep or at least work on long journeys. The fully integrated satellite broadband connection impressed me too. The global positioning system is supposed to be so accurate you can even use it for parking in a tight spot.

Not that you need it to, because the auto park and recharge was good even on my old car.

It is interesting to speculate on who we could call the founder of the vehicle electrical system. Michael Faraday of course deserves much acclaim, but then of course so does Ettiene Lenoir and so does Robert Bosch and so does Nikolaus Otto and so does.

Finally comment

The most radical design aspect of my new car, if it ever arrives, is the ability to switch off every single driving aid and do it yourself! I can’t wait to try this. However, I am led to believe that the insurance cover is void if you use the car on the ‘Wired Roads’. Evidently the chance of having an accident increases a thousand fold when people start driving themselves. Still, I’m going to try it at some point! Problem is over ninety eight percent of the roads are wire now so I will have to take care.

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