Given the booming popularity of rideshare electric scooter in many U.S. cities, you'd be forgiven if you think that motorized kick scooter is a relatively new invention. In actuality, they've been around for over a century:
The Online Bike Museum explains that the Autoped, the first mass-produced motorized scooter ride in the U.S., was “[e]ssentially an enlarged child’s scooter with an engine mounted over the front wheel.” Though some reports claimed it could reach speeds of 35 miles per hour, the steering column operated the clutch and brake, which the museum noted made the ride “unsteady” when it pushed 20 mph. Later, a battery-operated version of the Autoped was made available when the Everready Battery Company bought the outfit.
The concept of the scooter stretches back at least a century before to 1817 and Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun of Germany. After he debuted his early two-wheeled, human-powered ride, the velocipede concept was quickly spun off into bicycles, tricycles and kick scooters. Give or take a few decades, the transportation was being motorized, too, with rear treadle drives popping up in Scotland around the 1840s, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Come the turn of the 19th century, battery-powered machines were also entering into the fold; Ogden Bolton Jr. was issued a U.S. patent for his battery-powered bicycle in 1895.
But why didn't the motorized scooter of the early 19th century become popular? The Smithsonian has the story behind the rise and fall of the world's first motor scooter.
(Image Credits: National Museum of American History)