New York horseless coach runs on electric-drive from tiny Errington

Electric drive technology from the small community of Errington on Vancouver Island is powering the new Horseless eCarriage designed to replace the horse and carriage trade in New York City.

Crafted to look as though it was built in the early 1900s, the nine-person vehicle was a standout at this year’s New York International Auto Show.

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Technology and design have been combined to serve a bigger purpose. The NYCLASS animal activist organization spent close to $500,000, raised from 4,000 donors, to commission the vehicle in its bid to rid the city of horse-drawn carriages. NYCLASS believes the horse and carriage business is cruel to the animals.

The non-profit organization hired The Creative Workshop, a restoration and coach-building business in Florida, to fashion a replacement for the 68-carriage industry with about 200 horses. The idea is to encourage carriage drivers to switch to an electric vehicle.

“We knew that we had a problem but we wanted to address it by being proactive in our solution,” Allie Feldman, executive director, said from New York on Thursday.

New York is in the midst of a debate about the future of horses and carriages, a traditional sight in Central Park. Feldman’s goal is for a fleet of 70 eCarriages on the streets, potentially backed by New York City financing.

The eCarriage can operate in any weather, unlike horse and carriages, and carry more passengers, Feldman said. The value of this New York sector could rise to $30 million annually from $19 million by switching to electric vehicles, she said.

This vehicle can run for 10 hours on one charge, meets modern safety standards, and features amenities such as heated seats.

Jason Wenig, The Creative Workshop owner, looked to the horse and carriages for inspiration, deciding to fashion a vehicle evocative of that time. As it happens, “it is my favourite era of car.”

Th vehicle can carry a driver and eight passengers. Wenig wanted to re-create the feeling of a ride in this kind of car to give passengers a sense of travelling in a grand style. Back in the early 1900s, electric tour buses toured the city.

Wenig needed an expert in electric vehicles to help him fulfill the commission. He tried many electric vehicle manufacturers but ran into resistance. The last person he contacted was Randy Holmquist, founder of Canadian Electric Vehicles Ltd. in Errington, southwest of Parksville.

Instead of throwing up roadblocks, Holmquist immediately said, “We can do it.” That launched a smooth working relationship.

“Randy is very good,” Wenig said. If more vehicles are commissioned, Wenig wants to work with Holmquist again.

Holmquist and three other full-time workers fill orders for customers locally and around the world, for everything from garden carts to heavy-duty trucks.

The drive system for the eCarriage was pre-wired, pre-tested, and shipped to Florida in September, Holmquist said. It included an electric motor, controls and monitoring systems needed to meet U.S. federal codes, making the job a little more complex than most.

Once at The Creative Workshop, “they bolted it into their cool vehicle and away they went,” Holmquist said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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