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The vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor, usually an internal combustion engine or an electric motor, or some combination of the two, such as hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. For legal purposes, motor vehicles are often identified within a number of vehicle classes including cars, buses, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, light trucks and regular trucks. These classifications vary according to the legal codes of each country. ISO 3833:1977 is the standard for road vehicle types, terms and definitions.
Generally, to avoid requiring handicapped persons from having to possess an operator's license to use one, or requiring tags and insurance, powered wheelchairs will be specifically excluded by law from being considered motor vehicles.
As of 2010, there were more than one billion motor vehicles in use in the world, excluding off-road vehicles and heavy construction equipment. Global vehicle ownership per capita in 2010 was 148 vehicles in operation per 1000 people. The United States has the largest fleet of motor vehicles in the world, with 258 million in 2014.
Vehicle ownership per capita in the US is also the highest in the world, with 769 vehicles in operation per 1000 people. The People's Republic of China has the second largest fleet in the world, with slightly more than 78 million vehicles, and in 2009 became the world's largest new car market. In 2011, a total of 80 million cars and commercial vehicles were built, led by China, with 18.4 million motor vehicles manufactured.
Land Vehicles
Historical evolution of
vehicle ownership rates in the U.S.
(Selected years 1900–2009)
Year Veh. per
1000 people
Year Veh. per
1000 people
Year Veh. per
1000 people
1900 0.11 1940 245.63 1980 710.71
1905 0.94 1945 221.80 1990 773.40
1910 5.07 1950 323.71 2000 800.30
1920 86.78 1960 410.37 2007 843.57
1930 217.34 1970 545.35 2009 828.04