eTrike ~ Nothing New Under the Sun

The Riker Electric Trike, 1896


Watching the progress in battery and motor technology over the past ten years, I thought we had come a long way.  But every time I look back at what they were doing in the late 1800’s I’m amazed at how little we’ve advanced since then. Or rather, how far ahead they were back then. Those bowler hatted bustle wearing Victorians really had it going on.


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Spinning Magnets over at Endless-Sphere posted some info about an electric trike patent from 1890. That sent me down another rabbit hole of history, which lead me to the Riker Electric Vehicle Company.


A college dropout, living in his parents’ basement, in the late 1800’s Andrew Riker began experimenting with electric vehicles, starting with bikes. In 1884, he designed and built an electric three wheeled car using an English Coventry tricycle. It had a 40 volt lead-acid battery bank under the seat, driving a 1 hp motor, with a 25 mile range at a speed of around 25mph.

Basically, the same thing I’ve come up with 150 years later.

In 1888 (there’s that year again) he founded the Riker Electric Motor Company in Brooklyn, NY, and became the largest manufacturer of electric vehicles at the time. One of his production trikes won a race at Providence, Rhode Island, setting a record for the fastest mile in 2:13, with an average speed of 27mph. It was also one of the first uses of electric lights on motor cars instead of traditional kerosene or coal oil lamps – which tended to be somewhat hazardous during collisions.

These are photos of that production model electric trike, from the Henry Ford Museum. Maybe I should upgrade to leather suede seats and brass gauges . . .




















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