De Dion Bouton, tricycle, 1898, France
De Dion Bouton & Co. was founded in Paris in 1883 and initially produced steam boilers that were fitted to the first cars; from 1893 the company started to build internal combustion engines for the automobile industry. The first De Dion Bouton Tricycle was presented in 1895 and is considered the first real popular individual means of transport: it was produced until 1903 and was sold not only in France, but also England and Italy.
Originally producing 0.5 bhp, the four-stroke single-cylinder engine with two-speed gearbox, kept on being developed until it reached 3.5 bhp in 1903; it could overcome a 10% gradient slope without the need to pedal.
Particularly interesting was the dry battery which provided electricity for ignition; it had an autonomy of 150 hours.
An appreciated optional of the period was a small trailer, built by Belvalette coachbuilder, which, attached behind the tricycle, allowed to carry two passengers. The company, holder of many motoring patents, such as the famous De Dion rear axle, stopped production in 1933.
Special thanks to Ivano Mercanzin for the photos.