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The New York Times
July 16, 1895

London Engineer Offers Prizes for Best Forms of Horseless Vehicles.


Progress that Has Been Made—Experiments that Are Being Conducted by Joseph Lippe of This City.

The London Engineer, one of the foremost technical journals in Great Britain, has announced that it will give 1,000 guineas in prizes for the best forms of horseless vehicles.  The award will be made by a committee of experts after a public trial on some road in England.

The details of the plan are not yet complete, and The Engineer in its preparatory notice does not say whether the competition is to be confined to self-propelling carriages of British manufacture only or whether those of other countries will be admitted on equal terms.  In the latter case, which is the most probable supposition, American mechanics will have a good chance to show their skill and run the chance of making a fortune by the worldwide advertisement which success in such a competition would give to their inventions.

Some surprise has been expressed by those in this country who have followed with interest the recent trials of horseless carriages in France, that England, which is more than the equal of her Gallic neighbor in matters of transportation, should show so little interest up to the present in the development of light carriages for two or more persons propelled by mechanical means.

This lack of interest on England's part was more apparent than real.  Not only have high-class technical journals like The Engineer been urging that, unless British manufacturers soon get into the field with a commercially practicable horseless carriage, France is likely to secure the richest part of the future trade in these vehicles through orders from all the world, but cautious and conservative journals for general readers like The London Spectator are fully convinced that the doom of the horse as a business motor for carriages must come within the next few years.

The chief difficulty in Great Britain hitherto has been a stupid act of Parliament, passed twenty years ago, to restrict the travel on highways of traction engines.  Although this act was intended to apply only to the heavy, noisy, cinder-vomiting traction engine of twenty years ago, no weight was mentioned in the act, and no form of mechanically propelled vehicle was exempt except the bicycle.  Just before the dissolution of the late Parliament a short bill was introduced giving the necessary freedom to all automobile vehicles under two tons in weight.  This bill is either now a law or it will be introduced and passed as soon as the new Parliament meets, and it is expected that the freedom of the roads will give a great impetus to English mechanical genius to invent a satisfactory horseless carriage for the delightful roads in that country.

It will be remembered that the trials of horseless vehicles in France for prizes of 50,000 francs began on June 11 past.  The distance to be traversed was from Paris to Bordeaux and back, or 744 miles.  Sixteen petroleum carriages, seven steam vehicles, two electric carriages, and two petroleum bicycles were entered for the contest.  The seven prizes offered were all won by petroleum motors, though one steam carriage covered the distance within the time limit, which was 100 hours.

The first vehicle to arrive in Paris on the return journey, was a horseless carriage for two persons, which completed the trip in less than forty-nine hours.  As the first prize was only to be given to a horseless vehicle holding four persons, the second carriage won.  It was five hours and forty minutes behind the first.  Although the gradients were very heavy on parts of the route, the bad paving in the towns through which they had to pass was the chief cause of disaster to the vehicles which broke down.

A reporter for The New-York Times, when making some inquiries yesterday about the progress of the horseless vehicles in this country, found out that Joseph Lippe, a well-known coachbuilder in Marion Street, had been working at the problem for several months past.  To. Mr. Lippe, accordingly, he went, and asked him what success he had had with his vehicle.

Mr. Lipps is about fifty years old.  He has clear, penetrating eyes, and, while he is a firm believer in the future of horseless carriages, is also keenly alive to the difficulties which will have to be overcome before they are as common in the streets of New-York as they are to-day in the streets of Paris.  He said:

"I have been making experiments with horseless carriages for several months past with some success.  I used a first-class, high-speed petroleum motor, which I bought from the Daimler Company, with permission to use it in any way that I liked.  I found it easy enough to construct a carriage which would run along a smooth, hard road.  What has fairly puzzled me is how to get a gearing which will stand the jolting and jarring of the granite pavements of the city.

"One of the greatest difficulties which I had to encounter was the turning of the hind wheels of my carriage.  The front wheels worked on a lock, and through them the steering was done, but in sharp turns where both hind wheels were revolved at the same rate, the vehicle would not turn.

"I surmounted this obstacle by arranging it so that the inside wheel could be released while the outer one turned—just like a paddle tugboat with independent action in each wheel.  Then as to brake power I found that brakes could be too strong as well as too weak, and that the thing to be desired was a brake which could stop the machine in a foot without tearing off the tires or wrecking the gearing.

"As far as my observations went, too, I found that the motor, which was a double cylinder one, worked all right.  It requires a tank of water to keep the cylinders cool, and the water soon gets hot, even up to the boiling point.  But even with this temperature there was no gagging of the piston in the cylinder, so that though a fresh supply of water might be needed on a long journey, this difficulty was not insuperable.

"The real check was the connection between the engine and the gearing which turned the hind axle.  Either the parts had to be fitted loosely to allow play for the inequalities of the granite pavement, in which case there was great loss of power through friction and inefficient contact, or the parts had to be tightly geared with the result of running the risk of breaking the machine at every jolt.

"There was another aspect of the horseless carriages which came out in the experiments I made, which struck me as unfavorable to their future development along present ascertained lines.  One of these vehicles would require a very competent man with all his wits about him to work it in crowded streets.  He would have his steering, his engine, and his brake all to attend to at almost the same instant.  With a small, light machine, this might not be so difficult, but with one adapted to hold four passengers or more, or their equivalent in freight, the difficulty of controlling so many things at once on a heavy vehicle would become serious.

"The increase in asphalted streets in the city will remove in time many of these difficulties, especially that of a suitable gearing.  But, asphalt or no asphalt, I believe that the age of horseless carriages, for business purposes at any rate, is fast approaching.  You would be surprised at the number of persons in this country who are working all the time to achieve something new in this direction.  I have had conversations with men, not only in the city, but from other parts of this State and from New-England, who are applying their ingenuity and inventive skill to the manufacture of a horseless carriage, which can be sold and worked at a commercial profit.

"I have had cranks, too, who came to me with engines which depended upon false principles of some kind, such as giving out more work than was put into them by the combustion of the fuel.  I have seen storage battery engines tried, which had the fault of starting too suddenly, or of carrying all the load they could in the shape of cells, leaving no room for freight or passengers.

"I think a successful carriage might be built to run with a petroleum motor along a country road, which has not much traffic upon it.  What can be done in France can be done equally well here under the same conditions.  The great thing, however, is a gearing which will stand jolting without breaking, and still be efficient on smooth parts of the road.  The man who invents this will go a long way toward solving the problem of horseless traction without fixed rails."

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