The electric outboard motor boat of Gustave Trouvé

From 1880, Gustave Trouvé improved the efficiency of a small electric motor developed by Siemens. He used a rechargeable battery, then recently developed, to power the engine and installed it on an English James Starley tricycle, so inventing the world’s first electric vehicle. Although this was successfully tested on April 19, 1881, along the Rue Valois in central Paris, he was unable to patent it. Gustave Trouvé swiftly adapted his battery-powered motor to marine propulsion; to facilitate the transportation of his marine propulsion system between his workshop and the River Seine, Trouvé made it portable and removable from the boat, thus inventing the outboard engine. On May 26, 1881, the 5m Trouvé boat prototype, called “Le Téléphone” reached a speed of 1 m/s (3,6 km/h) going upstream et 2,5 m/s (9 km/h) downstream. Gustave Trouvé exhibited his boat (but not his tricycle) and his electro-medical instruments at the International Electrical Exhibition in Paris and soon after was awarded the Légion d’Honneur. He also miniaturized his electric motor to power a model airship, a dental drill, a sewing machine and a razor.
Special thanks to Kevin Desmond, author of the biography “Gustave Trouvé, French Electrical Genius”.

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