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Cities going horseless — and there's an Errington connection

The Horseless eCarriage, an antique vehicle looking to edge out the horse and carriage industry in places like New York City. The drive system was developed in Errington by Randy Holmquist. - PHOTO SUBMITTED BY THE CREATIVE WORKSHOP
The Horseless eCarriage, an antique vehicle looking to edge out the horse and carriage industry in places like New York City. The drive system was developed in Errington by Randy Holmquist.
— image credit: PHOTO SUBMITTED BY THE CREATIVE WORKSHOP

Horse drawn carriages may become a relic of the past, thanks to an Errington-based electric car company.

Randy Holmquist, of Canadian Electric Vehicles, provided the electric drive system for what is  known as the "Horseless eCarriage" — a vintage-style, nine-person vehicle looking to replace the horse and carriage trade in urban centres like New York City.

"It's the most sophisticated system we've ever done," said Holmquist, explaining the eCarriage must adhere to strict U.S. safety regulations. Holmquist said the "highly involved system" took his team three months to develop before sending it off to Jason Wenig at The Creative Workshop, an American company who fashioned the car's antique design.

Wenig said the vehicle aims to replicate “that turn-of-the-century nostalgia” boasting an “ornate, hand-built majestic nature.”

And while the project has roots in Errington, the eCarriage is making waves in the big apple.

NYCLASS — an animal activist organization — recently raised nearly $500,000 to commission the vehicle in its bid to outlaw horse drawn carriages in NYC, replacing them with eCarriages.

“We feel it’s unsafe and inhumane to make horses work in an unnatural urban centre,” said Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS. Feldman and fellow activists are lobbying for a change in New York City’s legislation that would see the horse and carriage trade phased out of the city over three years.

However, some feel this would take away from the romance of the city.

A campaign deemed “Save NYC Horse Carriages” has started a movement in an effort to save what their website describes as “an integral part of the culture of New York City (and) a thread in the fabric of America.”

Last week in Victoria, a horse drawn carriage’s driver and a motorist were injured after the horse was spooked leading to renewed calls for more restrictions on Vancouver Island’s carriage industry.

Holmquist said it has been interesting to watch the Horseless eCarriage idea mushroom around the U.S. knowing he played an integral part in the vehicle’s development.

“I grew up with horse drawn carriages and Victoria wouldn’t be Victoria without them but maybe their day has come,” he said, adding congestion and distracted driving do make it dangerous for horse drawn carriages to operate within busy cities.

“I’m curious to see how it plays out,” said Holmquist, admitting he hasn’t seen the completed eCarriage in person as he doesn’t fly on planes.

“If you can’t drive there, I won’t go.”

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