None of us who drove it were brave enough to push the 1881 Found electric vehicle replica to its limit. No wonder: it has a drawbar to steer two of its three thin solid rubber wheels, a leather brake, a seat that puts the back at shoulder height and a motor that could just as easily have a light switch for a Throttle.
This important development in the history of the electric motorcycle is up there with the wax wings of Icarus in terms of safety rating. Gustave Found did not care. By marrying a tricycle made in Coventry with its battery and motor combination, the Frenchman created what is considered to be the first rechargeable electric vehicle.
On April 19, 1881, at a time when the American West was still wild, the First Boer War had just ended and Queen Victoria still had two decades on the throne, Found took the rue de Valois in Paris. He delighted, frightened, perplexed and astonished a crowd of spectators; a contemporary illustration shows a dog chasing him on his tricycle.
“These Parisians must have surely assumed that they had seen the devil go by,” says one of their descendants, Patrick Chargueron. “I never imagined that something like this was already running on electricity in 1881; I would have said 1900 or 1910. “
His surprise is common. Most people don’t realize that years before the invention of the internal combustion engine, electricity propelled people on the streets around the world. The more it changes.
“When Found combined an electric motor, a rechargeable battery and a cycle very similar to it, it was one of the first [self-propelled] vehicles to see on the roads, ”explains Catherine Griffin, curator of the British Motor Museum in Gaydon. “It’s really interesting to look at the history of electric vehicles and to understand that, as we see them now, they are not modern technology.
“In the 1800s, electric propulsion was very widely adopted and had exactly the same advantages as today: it was cleaner and quieter. And those who didn’t adopt them did so for the same reasons people don’t now, in terms of reach and reliability.
“As roads improved and cities became more connected, the reach of electric vehicles meant that it just wasn’t as easy to get to these different places. And then the price of gasoline also dropped a lot, which meant that it was much cheaper to mass-produce the internal combustion engine car.
Not only the creation of a facsimile of Found’s tricycle, but also its transport to Paris on the 140th anniversary of its inaugural race, was the product of research for another electric car project. EVs are the future, but in the present it seemed only fair to bring their origins back to life.
And so, the internet provided the details of a former computer engineer called Christian Richards, who now hand-builds Victorian bicycles and tricycles in his workshop near York. To my surprise, he was not confused by my idea.
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This notice was published: 2021-05-09 05:01:24