The horse-drawn carriage of the future

Horse-drawn carriages are familiar sights in New York City’s Central Park, Paris’s Champs Elysses, and the Alpine hills leading to Neuschwanstein. Horses and carriages are romantic symbols of yesteryear, and they are used in tourism as an escape from the present. But several cities in France and Switzerland are reinvigorating horse-drawn carriages to create a new type of environmentally friendly mobility.

France introduces the waste-carriage

In 2007 as many as 70 cities in France began replacing diesel garbage and recycling trucks with carriages powered by horses;[1] today there are over 120 French municipalities harnessing the newly-remembered power of the horse.[2] Many of these cities have history – and roads – dating back to the middle ages. Large diesel powered trucks had difficulty manoeuvring in the narrow streets while causing excessive air and noise pollution. The carriages, on the other hand, not only save on fuel costs, they also add a “clip-clop” of nostalgia. Jean-Pierre Enjalbert, the mayor of Saint Prix near Paris, claims, "By using the horse for garden waste collection, we have raised awareness. People are composting more."[3] Horses are especially good for garbage and recycling runs, because their living motors can handle the constant stop-and-go well, whereas diesel engines waste large amounts of energy continually starting up and stopping. Therefore, the French National Stud Organization is advocating for the use of horse drawn carriages for similar stop-and-go transportation routes like school busses.[4]

Switzerland embraces the E-Carriage

One problem often cited with the horse-drawn garbage carriages is hilly or uneven terrain that makes it difficult for horses to pull the refuse weight. But a city in Switzerland has created an e-carriage to eliminate this problem. Similar to e-bikes that have a small motor that turns on when the rider needs a little extra energy, the e-carriages in the Swiss town of Avenches have electric motors that take a load off the horses’ shoulders when the trash becomes too cumbersome. The city along with the environmental research group Agroscope and Meterus Sàrl, a private engineer, created the new e-carriages and revealed them earlier this summer. Since August 23rd the e-carriages have been on a test run. The developers hope that this successful technology has the potential to be integrated with other social transportation programs, specifically for youth and the elderly. Besides the obvious environmental advantages of the new e-carriages, Agroscope cites the image of the horse as one of the project’s main advantages: “hoofed animals of the 21st century stand for a positive and ecological image, represent social integration and contribute to society as living engines.”[5] So, horses are no longer only the romantic image of a world long gone, but they are now, too, an image of responsible transportation technology.

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