History of the Spark Plug

The spark plug has existed in one form or another since the 1880s, when British physicist Oliver Lodge invented his version and started the Lodge Plug Company. Shortly thereafter, in 1898, there was a flurry of spark plug patents from such notables at Nicola Tesla, Robert Bosch and Carl Benz. Frenchman Albert Champion moved to the US in 1904 and founded the Champion Ignition Company, which later changed to AC Spark Plug Company and ultimately spawned the two spark plug companies of AC Delco and Champion. And in the 1930s, Royce Martin formed the First Electric Autolite Spark Plug Company, known today as the Autolite division of Honeywell. Early spark plugs were very similar to today’s plugs in construction, having an insulator separating two electrical conductors and a spark gap. They had a peak output of about 50 watts of power and were not very durable, lasting only 600 miles or so. Over the years, the industry made improvements that produced significant gains in durability and stability. Copper clad electrodes were introduced in 1976, followed by platinum in 1983 and culminating in iridium-tipped plugs that are designed to last up to 100,000 miles. But there have been only minimal improvements in efficiency. The peak discharge power of all these plugs has remained at 50 watts, the same as it was over 100 years ago.Since day one, this level has been assumed to be adequate for igniting fuel in the cylinder, in spite of the fact that automotive engine technology has changed performance and emissions dramatically. At ENERPULSE, we have proven that assumption to be wrong. Lodge, Champion, Bosch Super, NGK G-Power, and Denso are trademarks respectively of Lodge Spark Plugs LTD., Federal Mogul, The Bosch Group, NGK Spark Plugs USA and Denso Corporation.