The Horseless eCarriage was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show today, an old-timey and futuristic vehicle that animal activists and supporters of a horse-and-carriage ban hope could eventually replace the city's animal-powered carriages. The prototype was modeled after a turn-of-the-century touring car, complete with brass trim and other authentic period details. So, bringing you vintage New York sans the manure smell.
The eCarriage is basically a battery-powered car made to look funny. It seats eight, plus a driver, and weighs around 7,000 pounds — probably closer to 8,000 if some tourists pack into the seats. It's big, about the width and weight of a nine-passenger SUV, and a little wider than its antique version because "quite frankly so are we," said Jason Wenig, who designed the eCarriage at his restoration company, the Florida-based Creative Workshop.
The vehicle runs at a max speed near 30 miles per hour, but would be restricted to 5 miles per hour within Central Park, thus continuing the tradition of horse-drawn carriages causing traffic congestion in and around midtown.
The goal of the eCarriage is to function as a viable replacement for the horse-drawn carriages, maintaining employment opportunities for drivers, if not the horses, and providing another sight-seeing option. "We would love to have a humane and sustainable alternative," said Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, which commissioned the prototype. She said it's safer, with a windshield and seat belts. Plus, it doesn't poop.
Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) and Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) represented the City Council and supporters of Mayor de Blasio's push for a horse-and-carriage ban at the event. Though no legislation has been drafted yet, it's "a matter of time before passing legislation to bring horseless carriages and replace horses," said Councilman Rodriguez to a smattering of applause.
Given the many opponents of the carriage ban, like Liam Neeson and the New York Times editorial page, Dromm admitted "all fights are difficult." But the eCarriage changes the stakes. "It makes it real, it makes it visible, it's concrete, it's something that can really happen," he said. "You can see it; it makes it a real alternative to what the opposition is saying.”
Wenig also said they plan to build the eCarriage fleet in one of the five boroughs, estimating the average cost of a street-ready eCarriage to be between $150,000 and $175,000. But it's just a ballpark figure, as none have been ordered yet. Of course, once they hit the streets they can be souped up or customized depending on the driver's preferences.
The Horseless eCarriage will head back to Florida after the Auto Show, where it will be suited up with a parasol top and road-tested. It will be back in New York sometime in June, just in time for the heat, which will make certain areas in Central Park smell so terrible that even some horse-drawn-carriage supporters may soften their stance.