We’re happy to report that when a local entrepreneur recently unveiled a new form of transportation to slowly guide tourists through downtown Charleston, city officials quickly noticed he had the cart before the horse. . Literally and metaphorically.
We generally welcome the innovative energy of the private sector; one of the latest examples of this creativity comes from Kyle Kelly, who runs a sweater shop on King Street and has created a so-called “electric car” that looks a lot like a horse-drawn carriage (and has wooden wheels) but is actually powered by 16 batteries. In other words, it’s a car – a weird new car that’s a mix between a horseless car in terms of its body appearance and a modern electric vehicle in terms of its powertrain.
Mr Kelly recently told reporter Emily Williams that he wanted to work with the city to start a downtown touring business with these electric cars, adding: “It needs to be launched, and it needs to be launched in Charleston. “
We are less sure. The city is correct in noting that Mr. Kelly’s first step must be to get state permission to legally operate the device on our streets, most of which are state-owned and maintained. While the electric cart has some historical flair, state officials should check to see if it has enough safety features to make it street-legal, especially for transporting more than a dozen people at a time. that time.
Only after the state has given its blessing for the safe commercial use of the electric car on our streets will the city consider the matter much more interesting: Should will these new machines be authorized to take tourists to town?
We anticipate a lively discussion. We understand that a vocal group of downtown residents don’t like horse-drawn carriage tours and have launched a sophisticated campaign against them, but we’re not sure they would immediately adopt what appears to us to be some sort of buggy. golf. Is opposition to horse-drawn carriage tours stemming solely from concern about the animals or also from fear that they move slowly, block traffic and force others to hear snippets of commentary about points of interest? local interest?
One of the reasons Charleston has regulated horse-drawn carriages so aggressively isn’t so much to protect the animals as to protect residents from a commercial activity that some say hurts their quality of life. Many consider horse-drawn carriage tours to be quaint, even charming; others see them as a theme park-like intrusion into the quietness of the street they live on. This may represent the biggest concern: Would horse-drawn carriages give Charleston a tackier, carnival-like vibe, or would they be welcomed as a modern yet polished way to see the city?
Regardless of people’s answer to this question, the tourism commission and city council should ultimately decide whether to allow them and, if so, with what limitations. How much would electric cars replace one of the 85 certified animal-drawn cars or one of the more than 23,000 carriage tours conducted last year and how much would they simply add to those numbers? Would electric cars be subject to urban restrictions intended to spread around horse-drawn carriage traffic? Mr Kelly said he had a “fantastic imagination”, but he shouldn’t imagine his business would avoid most city regulations just because his tours wouldn’t leave anything smelly on our streets.
Of course, entrepreneurs and government regulators can only answer some of the questions. If electric cars are part of our landscape, the market will eventually have its say. Will tourists actually want to ride in electric cars? How much of the appeal of a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Charleston is the experience of being pulled by a workaholic rather than just slowly zipping through the streets in a windowless vehicle?
We would be tempted to offer answers to these questions, but at this point, that would be putting the cart before the battery.