How Do Cars Work

In This Section:
How Do Cars Work
Hydrocarbons
The Global Environmental Crisis

We’ll take a brief look at the car as we know it — how and why it runs, some of its wider consequences, and why there is not only a crisis going on, but also such a desperate need for an alternative — a future car.


It may be a dumb question, but how exactly do cars run today?


The odds are very good that the car you drive is powered by a gasoline engine or a diesel engine. Although these engines don’t operate in precisely the same manner, for our current purposes this is immaterial.

When you turn the car’s ignition, a blend of air and fuel meet a spark inside a closed chamber, causing combustion—a small explosion. The energy released from that explosion expands very rapidly—think of any explosion, even a huge one, and how it pushes outward. Your car’s technology is arranged to divert that expansion so that it pushes on pistons in a cylinder. This process happens again and again, allowing your car to move forward.

Because that combustion occurs in a closed space, it’s known as internal combustion; as a result, your car runs thanks to the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).


Where exactly does the gasoline come from?


According to the Biogenic theory, millions of years ago when organic material like algae died and began to decay, it sunk into the upper crust of the earth—beginning, in essence, to fossilize. Over the next millions of years it was subjected to intense heat and pressure, experiencing a tremendous transformation in its chemistry.

Ultimately, it transformed into a gas or liquid, at which time we termed it a hydrocarbon.

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This site follows the emergence, application and development of transportation innovation. Reference to manufacturers, makes and models, and other automotive-related businesses are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by FutureCars.com.

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