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An electric vehicle made of wicker?

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Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/File

(Read caption) The botanical gardens in Balboa Park in San Diego, Calif., boasts beautiful flora, including orchids, begonias, ferns and other colorful plants. Wicker-bodied electric vehicles were designed to parade around the Panama-California Exposition grounds in Balboa Park between 1915 and 1916, Ingram writes.

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Wicker might not be your first choice of construction material when designing a vehicle, but the world was a very different place in 1915.

If you lived in San Diego at the time, the sight of an Electriquette silently whirring past may have been quite familar.

The wicker-bodied electric vehicles were designed to parade around the Panama-California Exposition grounds in Balboa Park, San Diego, between 1915 and 1916--and now an entrepreneur wants to bring them back.

Developer and attorney Sandor Shapery intends to re-release the Electriquette in time for the 2015 expo centennial, says U-T San Diego

The original vehicles were actually the work of another attorney, Clyde H. Osborn. He apparently based the Electriquette on the wicker pushchairs popular on seaside resort boardwalks at the time.

Each vehicle weighed around 300 pounds--about a third that of a Renault Twizy--and used a half-horsepower electric motor for propulsion.

At 3.5 mph, the Electriquette wouldn't even qualify as a neighborhood electric vehicle, but the walking-pace machines were perfect for cruising around the park, for only a dollar a day.

And that low speed meant that even with a wicker body, the occupants were hardly doomed in an accident.

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"They are practically fool-proof, the only possible accident being an occasional jam into a curbstone", said Motor Age magazine in 1915.

Shapery wants to bring the vehicles back, with a price of $3,200 each, and a rental cost of $5 per hour--if Balboa Park and 2015 expo officials grant him a concession.

And according to those who have had a go in Shapery's early (or should that be late?) prototypes, they're great fun to drive.

"It's very smooth--smooth as glass", said Friends of Balboa Park founder Betty Peabody. "It's a hoot, an absolute hoot" added Ben Clay, co-chairman of the Balboa Park Celebration steering committee.

The re-created prototype vehicles have been jointly developed by architect David Marshall, and electronics expert Brad Hunter from MIT.

It isn't known what happened to the originals however--there have been no accounts of them past 1917.

It's possible some still exist--but even if not, their great ancestors may still be making an appearance in the city once more, in 2015


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