The prodigy that taught us the future of electric scooters was called Autoped, and it was already in use in 1915
Traffic lights would still take 15 more years to reach the United States, but there was the Autoped, a unique combustion engine skateboard that was ahead of its time and it has proven to be a prodigious predecessor to today’s electric scooters.
this scooter was created in 1915 in New York, but its success was remarkable and even ended up being used by celebrities of the time such as the suffragette Lady Norman, who used it to go to the office. It was not the only one: even the famous pilot Amelia Earhart would end up trying it years later.
As they pointed out in the Smithsonian Magazine, the patent for the “self-propelled vehicle” was granted to Hugo Cecil GibsonAlthough designer Joseph F. Merkel, creator of the Flying Merkel motorcycle, contributed significantly to the final development of the final product.
A century ahead of its time
That product, created by the Autoped Company of America —founded in 1913— It was the scooter with a combustion engine called Autoped, which debuted in 1915 and was described by some media as “a rare vehicle”.
This scooter had a 155 cc four-stroke combustion engine which was placed near the front wheel and also included a front and rear headlight and a horn. It reached 32 km / h, an astonishing speed that actually exceeds the 25 km / h that is the norm in today’s electric scooters.
That invention was advertised as a unique means of transportation for the upper classes, and in 1916 an illustration in the magazine Puck showed an image that really seemed ahead of its time. Articles featuring her unique revolution are still preserved, showing for example actresses like Shirley Kellogg using it in Hyde Park in 1917.
That Autoped image ended up working, and the Autoped had some success among the upper classes. This is demonstrated by the fact that Lady Florence Norman, a famous suffragette, used it as early as 1916 to go to her central London office. The image that heads this article – taken by Paul Thompson – precisely shows Lady Norman in an Autoped.
He was not the only celebrity to use this vehicle. Although the Autoped was discontinued in 1921, it was used several years later, as evidenced by the fact that the famous Amelia Earhart also appears mounted on one in 1935.
The Autoped also ended up being used in other scenarios, as noted in the Online Bicycle Museum. The New York Postal Service used it to carry mail and it is also used by the traffic police. Curiously, some criminals ended up using these vehicles to escape their crimes.
Even so, the most common use of the Autoped was recreational, and its success came to achieve that appeared in European countries like Portugal, where there are also images like the one that accompanies this paragraph and in which you see a woman and a man with both Autopeds.
Unfortunately the Autoped failed to be profitable. Experts note that it probably did not compensate: it was more expensive than a bicycle and did not offer the comfort of motorcycles that already then also began to emerge and allowed to be seated.
After the Great Depression of 1929 the Cushman company took the baton and created the Auto-Glide, some kind of scooter, but the traffic regulations of the time harmed those motorcycles and favored the rise of the automobile.
The truth is that that motorcycle was another one ahead of its time to some extent, but our protagonist, the Autoped, showed what the future of personal transportation could be. Curious that for almost a century it was practically forgotten and was rescued just to show that in some cases the old is new again.