Making cars lighter and more fuel efficient are challenges that have pushed the industry ever since Carl Benz filed a patent for his "gas engine-powered vehicle" in Berlin in 1886.
That same year, and in a workshop less than 100km away, inventor and entrepreneur Gottlieb Daimler was working on his motor wagon.
The 125th anniversary of Benz and Daimler's creation has sparked discussion on the past, present and future of the automobile – not only at Daimler AG, which is using the anniversary to promote its myriad of contributions to the car, but at all vehicle manufacturers.
A long road
As far back as the 18th century, inventors – particularly in France and England – began conducting the first experiments with vehicles driven by steam engines.
Advances in stream-powered engines continued throughout the 19th century. Electric motors were also tried for the first time.
But the pivotal development for what would become the basis of today's cars was the invention of the four-stroke engine by Germany's Nikolaus August Otto.
Benz, Daimler and his partner, Wilhelm Maybach, were determined to find ways to reduce the size and weight of the engine while simultaneously trying to increase its power output.
Sounds very familiar.
Smart solutions for cost-effectively reducing vehicle weight while increasing output are as sought after today as they where in the late 19th century.
Some of the latest developments have a chance to be revolutionary.
The new '1-liter car'
Last month Volkswagen AG revealed that in two years it will produce a limited run of its new ultra fuel-efficient car, the XL1. VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said the XL1's first markets will be Europe, starting with Germany, then the United States and China.
The two-seat XL1 prototype is the latest concept to come from VW's strategy to produce a so-called "1-liter car" that uses less than 1 liter of fuel per 100 kilometers. By using lightweight carbon fiber body parts to reduce weight to 795kg, and a plug-in diesel-electric powertrain, the XL1 uses just 0.9 liters of fuel per 100km and emits 24 grams per kilometer of CO2.
The XL1 is not the only car that will use carbon fiber parts. BMW says its planned full-electric Megacity Vehicle will use the costly but light and robust material. Carbon fiber body parts have been chosen because overall weight in electric vehicles is a big problem due to the heavy battery packs.