The Engine Powering Lives

Ryan Modafe

June 30, 2023

Whether driving to the grocery store, on a bus to work, or a plane visiting relatives, all is made possible by the internal combustion engine, a marvel of engineering and technology. The field of transportation has been rapidly developing over millennia beginning at its most primitive form with walking, slowly transforming to use of domesticated animals all the way to the hundreds of millions of cars around the world. The internal combustion engine (ICE) that is used in modern commercial vehicles today has been derived from the preceding engine originally created in 1876. In 1888 it appeared inside of the Benz patent motor car No. 3 in a public display roaming the streets of Mannheim which marked what is most likely the first ever recorded instance of a long-distance venture with an engine powered vehicle. 

This original engine still has remnants of it present in today’s modern engines through the use of 4-stroke technology. This innovative means of generating power all starting from gasoline fuel involves multiple complex steps to ultimately generate motion. Within a single chamber of an engine, there is a piston moving up and down and two valves that alternate with respect to their position and in tandem with a spark plug create the entire mechanism. The first of the four-stroke processes is the intake stroke. During this stage the piston moves down and the intake valve opens during which the exhaust valve closes in order to allow air to enter the chamber. Afterwards in compression, both valves shut and the piston moves up compressing all the air. In the most vital stroke, the power or combustion stroke, as the piston reaches the apex of its motion, fuel is injected into the space and combusts with the aid of the ignition of the spark plug and high pressure. The final stroke lays the path for repetition of this cycle when the piston recedes down and the exhaust valve opens to allow any waste to escape. 

However, the dominating reign of the ICE as the leading source of power generation for most notably transportation will be coming to an end within the next few decades. Although it may not be completely eradicated until much later, car companies are migrating towards hybrid and all-electric models for their upcoming vehicles signaling a change in the times. In fact, California will be shifting to a “zero-emission” policy by 2035 requiring that all new vehicles sold by dealers produce no emissions in light of the worsening condition of climate change. Even with these in mind, the ICE has had a vastly significant impact on society and how the world functions and will go down as one of the most notable achievements of human civilization.