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A vehicle (Latin: vehiculum) is a mechanical means of conveyance, a carriage or transport. Most often they are manufactured (e.g. bicycles, car, motorcycles, trains, ships, boats, and aircraft), although some other means of transport which are not made by humans also may be called vehicles; examples include icebergs and floating tree trunks.

Vehicles may be propelled or pulled by engines or animals including humans, for instance, a chariot, a stagecoach, a mule-drawn barge, an ox-cart or rickshaw. However, animals on their own, though used as a means of transport, are not called vehicles, but rather beasts of burden or draft animals. This distinction includes humans carrying another human, for example a child or a disabled person. Means of transport without a vehicle or animal would include walking, running, crawling, or swimming.

Vehicles that do not travel on land often are called craft, such as watercraft, sailcraft, aircraft, hovercraft, and spacecraft

Land vehicles are classified broadly by what is used to apply steering and drive forces against the ground: wheeled, tracked, railed, or skied.

History of vehicles

  • The oldest boats to be found by archaeological excavation are logboats from around 7,000-9,000 years ago,
  • a 7,000 year-old seagoing boat made from reeds and tar has been found in Kuwaitmarker.
  • Boats were used between 4000BCE-3000BCE in Sumer, ancient Egypt and in the Indian Oceanmarker.
  • There is evidence of camel pulled wheeled vehicles about 3000-4000 BCE.
  • The earliest evidence of a wagonway, a predecessor of the railway, found so far was the 6 to 8.5 km long Diolkosmarker wagonway, which transported boats across the Isthmus of Corinthmarker in Greecemarker since around 600 BC. Wheeled vehicles pulled by men and animals ran in grooves in limestone, which provided the track element, preventing the wagons from leaving the intended route.

  • Railways began reappearing in Europe after the Dark Ages. The earliest known record of a railway in Europe from this period is a stained-glass window in the Minster of Freiburg im Breisgaumarker dating from around 1350.

  • 1769 Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot is often credited with building the first self-propelled mechanical vehicle or automobile in about 1769, by adapting an existing horse-drawn vehicle, this claim is disputed by some , who doubt Cugnot's three-wheeler ever ran or was stable.

  • Richard Trevithick built and demonstrated his Puffing Devil road locomotive in 1801, believed by many to be the first demonstration of a steam-powered road vehicle, although it was unable to maintain sufficient steam pressure for long periods, and would have been of little practical use.

  • push bikes draisines, or hobby horses were the first human means of transport to make use of the two-wheeler principle, the draisine (or Laufmaschine, "running machine"), invented by the Germanmarker Baron Karl von Drais, is regarded as the forerunner of the modern bicycle (and motorcycle). It was introduced by Drais to the public in Mannheimmarker in summer 1817.

  • 1885 Otto Lilienthal began experimental gliding, and achieved the first sustained, controlled, reproducible flights.

Power source

Vehicles may be powered by fuels, such as petroleum or diesel, nuclear power, wind, waves, batteries, electrical power, solar energy, gravity, human or animal power and other chemical reactions and physical sources of energy have seen some use.


The power is converted into some kind of motion by a "motor". Engines commonly include steam engines, internal combustion engines (including jet engines and gas turbines) or electric motors. Muscles perform this function in animals. Other schemes are sometimes used.


Vehicles use different means to permit or ease movement. These are commonly in the form of wheels, boat or submarine hulls, skis, caterpillar tracks, skates, wings, rotors or cushions of air or jets of air. Lighter than air lifting and rocket power have also been used. Trains use tracks, either with wheels resting on them, or in a few cases using magnetic levitation. Cable cars are suspended from cables which move. Legs are used on experimental mechanical systems.


Propulsion is achieved in different ways. It can be achieved by an animal's legs that pulls a vehicle or by wheels that provide torque, by jet propulsion, a propeller or sometimes linear electric motors. Cables can also be attached to a vehicle, as in some funiculars. Wind powered vehicles such as yachts are nearly always directly propelled by the wind, but some unusual forms use the power of the wind to turn wheels.

Some gravity powered vehicles such as glider aircraft, street luge and soapbox cars have no in-built propulsion system.

Vehicle metrics

There are a broad range of metrics that denote the relative capabilities of various vehicles. Most of them apply to all vehicles while others are type-specific.

Types of vehicles


:see Bicycles (see also Vehicular Cycling)
:see main article History of the bicycle


A rickshaw is a vehicle that may carry a human and be powered by a human, but it is the mechanical form or cart that is powered by the human that is labeled as the vehicle. For some human-powered vehicles the human providing the power is labeled as a driver.


:see Tricycle


:see Quadracycle


:see Velomobile
A velomobile is an enclosed human powered vehicle.

Electric road carriages

:see electric vehicle
:see history of the electric vehicle

Steam road carriage

:see steam car

Steam tricycle

See steam tricycle
At the other end of the scale, much lighter steam vehicles have been constructed such as the steam tricycle from the Comte de Dion in 1887.

Petroleum (gasoline / diesel) motor-carriages

See Benz Patent Motorwagen
See Ford's model T
See Automobile

Road trains

A road train consists of a conventional heavy truck pulling three trailers or more, used in rural areas of Australia to move bulky loads such as livestock efficiently.


See Motorcycle
See Motorcycle sidecar
See Gottlieb Daimler


see Trains
see Trams

Road vehicles

see Car
see Buses
see Trucks
see Vans

Water vehicles

see Boats
see Ships

Under-water vehicles

see submarines
see submersibles
see diving bells
see diving chambers

Land and water vehicles

see Amphibious vehicle
see Amphibious ATV
see Hovercraft

Air vehicles

see aircraft
see Wing-In-Ground effect vehicle

Rocket and space vehicles

see spacecraft
see rocket
see launch escape capsule
see ejection seat

Snow vehicles

see snowmobile
see sleds

Other types of vehicles

A rickshaw is a vehicle that is powered by a human


Motor vehicle and trailer categories are defined according to the following international classification:

European Union

In the European Union the classifications for vehicle types are defined by :
  • Commission Directive 2001/116/EC of 20 December 2001, adapting to technical progress Council Directive 70/156/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the type-approval of motor vehicles and their trailers
  • Directive 2002/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 March 2002 relating to the type-approval of two or three-wheeled motor vehicles and repealing Council Directive 92/61/EEC

European Community, is based on the Community's WVTA (whole vehicle type-approval) system. Under this system, manufacturers can obtain certification for a vehicle type in one Member State if it meets the EC technical requirements and then market it EU-wide with no need for further tests. Total technical harmonization already has been achieved in three vehicle categories (passenger cars, motorcycles, and tractors) and soon will be extended to other vehicle categories (coaches and utility vehicles). It is essential that European car manufacturers be ensured access to as large a market as possible.

While the Community type-approval system allows manufacturers to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by the internal market, worldwide technical harmonization in the context of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) offers them a market which extends beyond European borders.

Acronyms and abbreviations

See also


  1. Denemark 2000, page 208
  2. [1]
  3. Verdelis, Nikolaos: "Le diolkos de L'Isthme", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, Vol. 81 (1957), pp. 526-529 (526)
  4. Cook, R. M.: "Archaic Greek Trade: Three Conjectures 1. The Diolkos", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 99 (1979), pp. 152-155 (152)
  5. Drijvers, J.W.: "Strabo VIII 2,1 (C335): Porthmeia and the Diolkos", Mnemosyne, Vol. 45 (1992), pp. 75-76 (75)
  6. Raepsaet, G. & Tolley, M.: "Le Diolkos de l’Isthme à Corinthe: son tracé, son fonctionnement", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, Vol. 117 (1993), pp. 233–261 (256)
  7. Lewis, M. J. T., "Railways in the Greek and Roman world", in Guy, A. / Rees, J. (eds), Early Railways. A Selection of Papers from the First International Early Railways Conference (2001), pp. 8-19 (11)
  9. Scadplus: Technical Harmonisation For Motor Vehicles
  10. Council Directive 70/156/EEC, about Type-approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, Commission Directive 2001/116/EC of 20 December 2001, adapting to technical progress Council Directive 70/156/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the type-approval of motor vehicles and their trailers

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