Roger Basick and Katy Blake talk about the history of the automobile and the present and future advancements in technology.

Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Roger Basick.

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And I’m Katy Blake. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1

A woman drives a black convertible over a hill. Her hair flows behind her out of this open-roofed vehicle. At the top of the hill, the road bends around sharp rocks. The sea crashes below. And, out above the sea, the sun begins to set. The woman parks her car and looks out over the ocean. The engine of her electric-powered car is quiet. Its sound disappears into the wind.

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Cars are everywhere. They take people to remote places. They take people to work and to their homes. Usually, these automobiles are powered by gasoline or petrol. But things were not always this way, and they may not always be either.

Today’s Spotlight is on the history and future of the automobile.

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People have dreamed about creating cars for a very long time. They wanted a way to transport people and goods without animals. But it took a very long time to make one that worked.

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Nicholas Cugnot was a French inventor. He built the first car in the late 1700’s. It used steam to power its engines. And it could drive at speeds of about 7 kilometres per hour. But steam engines were very large. And they took a lot of work to run. Horses cost less money. They could also transport people more quickly. Many other inventors tried to build a smaller steam-powered car that was easier to use. But cars did not become popular until someone invented a different kind of engine.

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The engine that powers many of the cars you see on the road today is called an internal combustion engine. Many people helped to create the internal combustion engine. But the first person to use it in a car was Karl Benz, in 1885. Internal combustion engines are smaller than steam engines. They use gasoline to fuel the engine. And they can produce more power to push a car faster.

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This new engine made cars more popular around the world. But for a long time, only the very wealthy could buy them. Cars cost a lot of money because of the way people made them. One or two people made each car by hand. So cars took a long time to make. Also, each car was different so they cost a lot of money to fix.

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But in the early 1900s a man from the United States changed how cars were made. His name was Henry Ford. Ford was a car engineer. At first, he made cars the traditional way. But he believed he could make them more easily. He did this by designing one car model that many different people could help him make. He used simple parts. Then his workers simply followed the same design plan for every car. He even made the cars all the same color. This let Ford produce many cars that were all the same in a short amount of time.

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Ford’s method changed the way industry works around the world. He designed a system that made it easy to produce large amounts of his product. He paid his workers enough money so that they could buy his product. Ford made it possible for many people to buy an car. Ford’s most popular car was called the Model T. By the 1920s, Ford had produced over 15,000,000 Model T cars. Many other car companies also used Ford’s methods. Cars began to cost less money all over the world.

Voice 1

But the number of cars on the road also created a problem. Every car needed gasoline for fuel. Burning gasoline worked very well to power cars. But it also creates a lot of  pollution. The number of cars made some cities difficult to live in. People exposed to too much vehicle pollution develop problems with their breathing.

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Burning gasoline also creates carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a gas that leads to global climate change. Using gasoline was a great idea when people started making cars. There were not many cars in the beginning, so the pollution did not affect much. But today there are more than one and a half billion cars on the road. The success of the car has turned gasoline use into a danger.

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Kate Brunton is a representative from Amber. Amber is a Dutch car company that makes electric, self-driving vehicles. She spoke to the University Network about the problem of gasoline cars.

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“The problem is that owning cars, especially cars that use fuel, is bad. But there is no real choice. It is bad for consumers, because the cost of owning most cars is high. It is bad for the environment. It does not work well. Most cars spend 90 percent of their time standing still.”

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Today many car companies are working to make cars that do not need gasoline. For example, many large vehicle manufacturers have begun to produce electric vehicles. Instead of burning fuel, electric vehicles store energy in batteries. For a long time, electric vehicles were not very popular. They could not go very far or very fast. This changed in 2003 with the creation of the Tesla Motor company. Tesla worked for many years to create an electric engine that worked as well as gasoline engines. And, in 2008, they released the Tesla Roadster. The roadster was just as fast as a gasoline-powered car. And it could travel over 300 kilometers on a single charge!

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Another newer creation is the hybrid vehicle. Hybrid cars use technology from both gasoline and electric engines. Hybrids have gasoline engines like normal cars. But the engines do not give power to push the car forward. Instead, they give power to the battery. The battery makes the car go forward. You do not need to charge the battery in a hybrid car. The gasoline engine provides the power to the battery. But the battery can power the car at low speeds, so the engine does not have to turn on. Hybrid engines are smaller than gasoline engines. And they require less gasoline to operate.

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Other companies have been experimenting with different fuels. For example, it is possible to fuel a car with hydrogen. Many large car companies are researching this new technology. Right now, it is difficult to use hydrogen because it does not last very long. One tank full of hydrogen may only be able to fuel a car for a very short time. But people are hopeful that new technologies will help make hydrogen work in the future.

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There are many possible paths for the future of the car. How we travel has changed many times over the past hundred years. And it will change again. It may be possible that there will be no single replacement for the internal combustion engine. In the future, there may be many different kinds of cars, each with different fuels. Or people may use cars less.  Either way, it is important to continue to invest in these new technologies. It is important not only for the future of the car, but for the future of humanity.

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Do you own a car? What kind of engine does it have? Do you use busses or trains more often? Do you use a motorbike or a bicycle to travel? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1

The writer of this program was Dan Christmann. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called ‘The History and Future of the Automobile’.

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You can also get our programs delivered directly to your Android or Apple device through our free official Spotlight English app. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you own a car? What kind of engine does it have? Do you use busses or trains more often? Do you use a motorbike or a bicycle to travel?

Join the discussion

17 comments
  • i am working to produce Hyundai car and i am very proud of my job to make a good cars. Thank you Spotlight for this Topic

  • In Italy these days there is a lot of discussion about mobility in the city. Bologna has introduced a 30 km/h limit in the city centre. Milan has inaugurated a new underground line. Rome reflects on the difficulty of accommodating 64 cars for every 100 inhabitants. Italy is behind on electricity, but will have to adjust to the limit set by Europe for 2035. The most interesting news for me on this week’s topic, written by Dan Christmann, is that most cars spend 90 percent of his time stopped, in my case maybe 99 percent, but it’s locked away in the garage. I wish there was a law that required anyone who wants to buy a car to prove that they have a garage to keep it. The thing that angers and disgusts me the most is seeing thousands of cars parked continuously in the most beautiful squares and streets of the city, taking away space for people and trees. My city is small and it was born when there were horses and it’s not suitable for hosting thousands of cars. In the United States, which has large spaces available, perhaps this problem does not exist. A note of optimism arises from the fact that work should soon begin on new car parks and above all a very large underground one. Motorcycles fascinate me, but I would feel safer facing a bear in the forest than riding a motorcycle.

  • The article does an excellent job of presenting a comprehensive overview of the automobile’s rich history, from its humble beginnings to its current state as a fundamental part of modern society. It discusses the key milestones, technological advancements, and societal impact that have shaped the automobile industry, showcasing the incredible progress made over the years.

  • no i have not because i have just 16 years
    actually batter of me the busses pat the trains is more expensive
    for me no i was not use the bicycle or motor

  • Hi Spotlight, thank you for your programs, it is so interesting to read them. A have a car which is use internal combustion engine to move, generally i use this car to travel my family for a long distance. But now i am working i China, i will stay here for three years and firstly i thought to by a car here, but then i opened my mind to use other methods for transportation. Here in China are very popular high sped trains and electrical bikes and i use them a lot. By the way in China very popular electrical vehicles even famous brand as a Mercedes Bens.

  • I have a car that I can fill with gasoline or alcohol (we call it a Flex Engine in Brazil), since alcohol is very popular here. I like electric cars, but in my country they are expensive and we don’t have the infrastructure to charge the battery… the benefits for the environment are true, but some European countries still use a lot of coal for electrical generation, which makes all this pointless.

  • No I Do’t but I hope to own one. I’m Use buses most of my time it hlpe me to go easer I Use my bicycle sometimes but I Do’t Use It to travele mybe I’ll try This experience one day

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