Transportation is the movement of people or goods from one location to another. It includes the simple wheelbarrow as well as complex modes of transportation like ships and aircraft.
History of Transportation
Early Land Transportation
People have always developed technological solutions to help us to transport materials and people. When Stone Age hunters needed to move a large animal carcase they probably put it on a sled. When the Ancient Egyptians needed to move large stones to build the pyramids, they probably used rollers.
Human Powered Transportation
There is a limit to how much a human can carry, so human powered transportation was mainly limited to canoes and other boats propelled by oars and paddles. Boats were used to move goods along rivers and coasts (in fine weather).
Wind and Animal Powered Transportation
The domestication of animals like the donkey, ox and horse took land transportation forward, with animals being used to carry loads and to pull them.
When the wheel was invented about 10,000 years ago it allowed animals to pull greater loads than they could ever carry and allowed the development of civilizations that depended on the large-scale transportation of food and building materials. Before the invention of the wheel most people lived in villages. Once animal-pulled carts were available people increasingly came to live in towns and cities with all their daily needs being brought in from the countryside by wheeled carts.
The horse-drawn cart was the main form of transportation in Europe and North America until the 20th Century. The ox or donkey drawn cart is still a common form of transporting goods in many countries today.
Horses were used to pull barges along canals in Europe before the invention of the steam engine. The canals were the main method of moving coal and similar heavy goods until the early 20th Century.
Sailing ships, like the tea clippers, used the power of the wind to carry them over the oceans and lakes of the world, opening up international trade routes, which have led to today's consumer society.
Steam Powered Transportation
The invention of the Steam Engine in the early 1700s was the first step towards replacing animals as the principle means of transportation. It allowed the development of railways, steam ships, steam-powered canal boats and early steam powered road vehicles.
Steam ships were more reliable, at least in terms of not depending so much on the vagaries of the weather and steam ships were larger than sailing ships, enabling them to carry more cargo for longer distances. Fewer were lost in storms because they did not have to go where the wind took them to the same degree.
The railways, with their steam locomotives soon became the fastest and most efficient way to move people and goods. They led to the development of seaside resorts in Europe as families from the cities migrated to the beaches for their holidays.
Steam powered road transport existed alongside that powered by the internal combustion engine for the first decades of the 20th Century.
Internal Combustion Engine Powered Transportation
Development of the internal combustion engine continued throughout the 20th Century. It was more efficient than steam engines, so steam powered road transport, railway locomotives and ships were gradually replaced by the newer technology.
Smaller engines such as those used in automobiles do not generate the high pressures and temperatures needed to burn high boiling point fuels such as the fuel oil used in ships. Gasoline and, increasingly, diesel are fuels that can burn in the small engines needed for personal transportation, cars and small boats. Gasoline is also used to fuel small, propeller driven aircraft. Kerosene is the fuel used in jet engines.
Road and rail transport replaced canal boats as they gave faster delivery times and were more efficient.
Rocket Powered Transportation
Rockets have been known for many centuries, but it is only since 1957 that it has been used for space vehicles. The cost of rocket launches is astronomically high because of the energy needed to overcome Earth's gravitational field.
Space transportation has been limited to a few scientists and their equipment because of the costs.
Sociological Transportation Trends
In an affluent society there is an increased demand for personal transportation. Public transport systems have always existed alongside personal transport, but have been largely relegated to the transport of heavy goods and those who are unable to drive, such as children or the very old..
With the ever-rising cost of fuels more people are willing to switch to public transportation systems, at least for some journeys such as travelling into city centers for work.
Governments are encouraging this switch to public transport in a bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions such ass carbon dioxide. Private vehicles are banned from some city centers and heavily taxed in others. Parking in the middle of a city is also prohibitively expensive.
Technological Transportation Trends
Electric vehicles and dual powered vehicles are becoming commonplace on our roads, as consumers become more willing to pay the extra capital cost of such vehicles to reap the benefit of lower running costs.
Hydrogen and ethanol fuelled vehicles are also well along in the development process. Ethanol must be made from carbohydrate-rich crops and would mean a greater acreage of farmland being devoted to these cash crops, rather than to the food the world needs.
The drive to reduce all forms of pollution is driving technological changes in personal transportation. All oil-based fuels produce carbon dioxide (CO2) when they burn. Most scientists are convinced that increasing the amount of CO2 in the air is changing our climate. Most electricity is produced by burning coal, oil or natural gas, so switching to electric powered vehicles does not reduce CO2 emissions to zero.
Hydrogen fuelled vehicles are the only answer to personal road transportation that has zero CO2 emissions. The only combustion product when hydrogen (H2) burns is water vapor (H2O).