Mar 29, 2023 - News

Philly's horse drawn carriages could go electric

A electric horseless carriage

An electric carriage designed for Guadalajara, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Advanced Power Vehicles

Horses pulling carriages full of tourists in Center City could become a thing of the past.

What’s happening: The animal rights nonprofit Revolution Philadelphia and a pair of donors say they have a plan to usher in the use of electric carriages so that the horses can be retired.

  • Josh Fox of the consulting firm Bottom Line Concepts and Eric Lerner tell Axios they're offering to pay for electric carriage prototypes, which they expect to cost about $100,000 each, and potentially a future fleet.
  • Fox and Lerner are part of The Brady Hunter Foundation, a nonprofit working to end animal cruelty.

Why it matters: Philly could be the first major metropolitan U.S. city to use electric carriages.

Plus: Horse-drawn carriages have been controversial, with one company closing down in 2017 over animal cruelty concerns and other violations.

Between the lines: A ban on horse-drawn carriages likely requires legislation and the approval of City Council and the mayor. City Councilman Mark Squilla backs replacing horses-drawn vehicles with e-carriages, spokesperson Anne Kelly tells Axios.

The big picture: The future of horse-drawn carriages was already in limbo.

  • 76 Carriage Company, the last-remaining operating in the city, left its stables in North Philly earlier this year, and they're being turned into apartments.
  • The company didn’t return a request for comment about whether it intends to reopen this spring, per its website. But the company is currently not licensed to operate in Philly, says ACCT Philly executive director Sarah Barnett, who heads the group responsible for animal welfare inspection.

Details: A street-ready prototype could be ready by summer's end, Fox and Lerner say.

  • The electric carriage design, by Alfonso Hernández Olmo, would look like the horse-drawn carriages that have been used in Philly.
  • Fox, Lerner and Revolution Philadelphia recently met with Squilla.

Of note: Fox and Lerner are also looking to usher in the end of horse-drawn carriages in New York City and San Antonio. “We’re willing and ready to invest millions of dollars nationally in this movement,” Fox tells Axios.

What they’re saying: “The carriages will bring some innovation and something new and exciting to Philly tourism that we have never had before,” says Tiffany Stair, co-founder of Revolution Philadelphia, which has been advocating for years to ban horse-drawn carriages.

What's next: Besides possible city legislation, horseless carriages would require approval from the state to ensure they're street legal.

  • The city would also need to figure out how to license electric carriages and their operators.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Philly would be the first major metropolitan U.S. city to use electric carriages (not the first U.S. city).

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