Do horse-drawn carriages need a differential

Switzerland's first hybrid carriage

Current Topics by Werner Schönenberger //

Hans Schibli was a riding instructor at the Gillhof near Henau for a long time. When he handed over the riding business to his son Mathias and Bruno Fuchs, he suddenly had time for other things. He bought a house in Wil that is in a quarter with a protected townscape. But it soon bothered him that he was not allowed to build a garden house next to his house according to his ideas. He therefore decided to look for an alternative in the form of a double-decker bus. In Nuremberg he found a horse-drawn omnibus on the Internet. On the spur of the moment, he bought the monster, and the old owner delivered the alternative garden shed to him on a low-loader at his front door. But again he had to change his concept, because this vehicle was simply too good for a garden shed.

Hans Schibli only knows the past of the bus in fragments. "The substructure is likely to be around 100 years old, because the wheels are not new and Pons Marmetfil’s Cavaillon is engraved on the hub caps," he explains. He also suspects that the car body was only manufactured later, probably around 30 years ago in East Germany.

Demanding development work

When it arrived in Switzerland, the two and a half tonne and 3.6 meter high monster caused a sensation. He and colleagues harnessed three Freiberg horses for the test drive. Nothing was a problem on flat terrain, but the horses quickly reached their limit on the way up. Hans Schibli began to think again and look for solutions. He came across old photos and films where many omnibuses could be seen in big city traffic. At the same time, he learned from old Wilers that in the pioneering days of the railway, an omnibus also ran from the train station to the Hotel Schöntal in Wil. But there were always only two horses harnessed in front of such double deckers. Although the terrain in the Wil region is hilly, he continued to look for solutions to be able to offer bus rides with two horses. He soon came across “horseless” carriages with petrol or electric motors in Germany, and in Switzerland he learned about a pilot project for electrically assisted horse-drawn trains at the national stud in Avenches. But the electric motor, which was controlled by sensitive traction sensors, could not convince him. In East Tyrol he inspected a carriage that was retrofitted on a wheel with a switchable electric drive. During this evaluation phase, he had many conversations with other coach engine tinkerers, but not all of them were cooperative and constructive. During this phase, Hans Schibli became more and more aware: "The optimal solution still has to be found."

E-bike technology as the basis

He met with real understanding and interest much later at a local supplier of electric-powered municipal vehicles. In Markus Brunner from the neighboring village of Schwarzenbach, he found an interested agricultural machinery mechanic who offered him valuable support in the search for and development of the secondary drive. When they found differential drive axles with integrated drum brakes in Italy, Hans Schibli's ideas became more and more concrete. But with the pure mechanics an optimal function was not guaranteed. Later, after a long search and clarification, they found an interested specialist in setting up electronics in Germany. Only now did it become possible for the electric motor to transfer its power optimally to the front wheels.

Hans Schibli measures the battery fluid.

An electric motor transfers its power to the front wheels via a differential axle with a chain.

"It took a lot of test drives with and without horses for the technology to work properly," emphasizes Hans Schibli. “Using an accelerator pedal, I can now use the electric motor steplessly and as required, thus relieving the horses in certain situations. We have limited the electric drive to a maximum speed of twelve kilometers per hour, and the brakes work with energy recovery. For the power supply, we have hidden four tractor batteries under the side of the bus. Everything works in a similar way to electric bikes; The thing doesn't last long without pedaling, but with the help of horse power, the performance goes astonishingly far, ”explains hybrid carriage pioneer Schibli enthusiastically.

Animal welfare and ecological solution

"But anyone who thinks that the electric motor support could just let the horses run along is wrong," explains Hans Schibli. "You shouldn't spoil the horses anyway, otherwise at some point all of the support will suddenly be missing." With a full load of around four tons, none of his horses really work up a sweat. "Now no guest has to fear that the horses would be overwhelmed and overloaded," he emphasizes. With this, Hans Schibli has implemented his dream in an animal-friendly and ecological way. In conversation with the pioneer, it becomes clear again and again: This development work is extremely satisfactory to him, and he is happy to pass on his experience. Hans Schibli laughs: "I don't have to be able to make a living from the bus trips, all the more fun behind it."

Hans Schibli also has fun at the wheel of the electric bus.

His enthusiasm for the hybrid carriage can still be felt when the horses are no longer in front of the carriage. He can now show how easily and effortlessly he can park the heavy omnibus - he gets on again, sticks the steering wheel with the handlebar into the floor of the driver's seat and drives forwards, backwards, upwards and downwards without any horses or problems.

Aperitif and dessert trips

After the omnibus became more and more practical, Hans Schibli bought two young Noriker horses in Vorarlberg; two typical Moorish heads, which he later renamed Max and Moritz. They are characterized by their balanced temperament and their irrepressible willingness to perform. The St. Gallen Equestrian Music also discovered these beneficial properties. That is why they have already tested the two Moorish heads as timpani horses.

With his partner Ramona Remund, he has developed a business model for aperitif and dessert tours around the city of Wil. Hans Schibli ensures variety and exercise and his partner spoils the accompanying guests as an independent pastry chef. In order to increase the comfort for the guests, they dismantled the hard benches on the roof and replaced them with comfortable lounge chairs. So you can pamper up to 20 people on the double floor.

In Wil, aperitifs and dessert rides are offered with the hybrid carriage.

(Published in Horse Week No. 13/2015)