Gustave Trouve was quick off the mark with the new technology emerging. In 1881, he told the French Academy of Sciences he had invented an electric motor. This was an improved version of the Siemens coil flange, which he claimed produced a ‘remarkable output’.
Gustave Trouve Powers Up an Electric Cycle
Gustave decided to use James Starley’s electric tricycle as the carriage for the first practical electric vehicle. The English inventor had pioneered differential gears and perfected bicycle chain drives. This may have made the difference and influenced his choice.
Gustave Trouve successfully rode his electric tricycle along the Rue Valois in central Paris. Notice the lead-acid batteries in the box behind him in the top picture. He was unable to patent it, perhaps because he did not invent the motor, or the electric vehicle, or the batteries, or the concept. He just configured them, but this did not deter his spirit. Gustav moved on and adapted his electric motor to suit marine propulsion. In the process, he invented the outboard motor.
The World’s First Boat with Outboard Motor
Gustave invented the outboard motor so he did not have to take the boat back to his workshop to service it. He called his 16-foot prototype Le Téléphone. Can you see the lead-acid batteries in the middle of the boat in the photo above. It achieved a speed of 2 miles per hour going up the River Seine, and 5 going down. Gustave Trouve exhibited the boat at the International Electrical Exhibition in the city and received the Légion d’Honneur.
However, he was not all work and no play. He used a miniaturized version of his motor to power a model airship, a dental drill, a sewing machine and a razor.
He put the lead-acid battery to good use in so many other devices too numerous to mention. These included an electric headlamp and horn for his boat, an electrical portable military telegraph, and the mechanical bird in his drawing to the right.
Gustave Trouve died aged 63 in 1902. History records he was a confirmed bachelor with no children. He soon passed from public memory because none of his inventions reached market. When the lease on his grave expired, the city reburied him in a communal grave. In 1980, his archives burned in a fire in the Descartes town hall, and much of what was left was gone forever.
Preview Image: Trouve Electric Tricycle