The Horseless Solar-Powered Buggy

From the Decatur, Illinois Herald & Review:

SULLIVAN — If something is worth inventing, it’s worth inventing again.

Armed with that kind of reassurance, Sullivan entrepreneur Larry Yoder has gone ahead and reinvented the horseless carriage “because I had a ball doing it.”

And it really is a carriage: He’s taken a former Amish buggy and built solar panels into the roof to feed batteries that power an electric motor capable of whipping it along at 14 mph, flat out. The buggy has been lengthened and widened and now, measuring 10 feet long and 6½ feet wide, will hold six passengers in comfort in its green crushed velvet interior.

“Everybody is like, ‘Whoa,’ when they see this,” says Yoder’s wife, Pat. “And, oh yeah, everybody wants a ride. Everybody.”

Which includes the ever-curious Amish. The Yoders like to spend part of the winter in Florida, and they live in an area close by Amish families who have joined them to chase the shouting wind along in fun horseless carriage excursions. Pat Yoder even entertains ideas that her husband’s invention could be the perfect retirement vehicle for older Amish who don’t have the physical resources to corral live horses anymore for their transport needs.

This machine is powered by a one-horsepower motor and features cruise control and GPS.  It has a range of 50 miles.

It’s true that some older Amish step away from hitching up a buggy and in special cases may even use limited motorized transport.  Could a horseless buggy-like vehicle like this be one day widely used by older Amish folks?  According to the article, Yoder “isn’t holding his breath on that one.”

Some months back reader Linda passed along a link for another one of Larry Yoder’s creations (also seen briefly in the above video).  The clip below by Ernest Bontrager shows one of Yoder’s two-wheeled models in action.

This looks fun, as long as you aren’t a person who motions with your arms a lot when you talk:

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    1. Debbie H

      Love it

      If it went as fast as the motor scooter I bet it would sell by the hundreds. I would love to have a two seater if it was street legal.

      1. GLEN K



    2. Kevin L.

      What an interesting idea! Dont know if the wider Amish church would accept it as it’s self propelled, but being battery powered it is limited in distance, so they might! Again, what an intereting concept!

    3. Juanita Cook

      This is really cool. But imagine very expensive to own as well.

    4. Alice Mary

      I wonder if he has any plans for a solar powered sleigh? Winter driving is always a problem in the snow belt. 🙂

      Alice Mary

    5. Sandra Kathleen


      How interesting and what a great idea…there would be a market anywhere for this…e.g., golf carts, wheelchairs, etc.

      1. Carolyn B

        S.K., I’m a wheelchair user and I was plotting from the second I saw today’s post. I haven’t even seen the videos yet.

        I’m thinking that Larry needs to do a ramp entry, and as a back-up, connect a hand-bike to a generator to assist the solar powered panels.

        Erik, I know, I know, I’m racing down the track on my favorite hobby/high horse. 😉 Have a great day.

        1. Sounds like he’s already widened the buggy Carolyn, so there’s a start 🙂

    6. Katie Troyer

      I have had a few rides on both of Larry’s inventions, the green buggy and the black one. Both roam the streets of Pinecraft in the winter months.

      1. I would not want to get a limb caught in those giant wheels.

    7. City Slicker

      Solar Powered Vehicles

      It will be interesting to see whether such vehicles would be accepted/adapted by the Amish as keeping the Ordnung. We probably shouldn’t expect an imminent announcement …
      At the same time I see other issues, most notably whether States would see these as motor vehicles and “revenue streams” requiring licensing/registration/insurance. Fully electric powered and hybrid cars are all considered motor vehicles.

    8. SharonR

      horseless solar-powered buggy

      QUITE A NIFTY INVENTION — My question is, how does it compare to a regular golf cart? Except for the fact it’s solar-powered (that’s a plus right there). Cute idea, and you can still keep the “Amish” look, too, and give the horses a rest. 🙂

    9. Dali Castillo


      It will be interesting to see where this idea goes, or if it goes.

    10. Sadie

      This article made me think about how time and change have affected various Amish people and subgroups at perhaps 50 year intervals.

      2013 versus 1963
      1963 versus 1913
      1913 versus 1863
      1863 versus 1813
      1813 versus 1763
      1763 versus 1713
      1713 and back to the original — I think — split from the Mennonites by followers of Jakob Ammann in 1693 (interestingly, the split primarily seems to have occurred in Southern Germany, Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland, of which areas I’ve been able to trace a good portion of family, particularly Alsace-Lorraine; I haven’t had Amish relatives or ancestors since the mid-1800’s, but sometimes I wonder about that family “fact.”)

      I wonder how much the lives of the “general” Amish people differed at each of these half-decade points; would life as one’s parents or grandparents even be recognizably Amish by the younger generations, and did older generations even contemplate the shifts that would mold and split the Amish communities even more in the future? What was the dress like at each point, what areas were the Amish inhabiting, and how well were they accepted by the English? Was their manner of dress ever indistinguishable from that of the English, and when did it begin to stand out so greatly as it does today? What technologies, liberties, or teachings of various Amish churches or districts were once considered to be entirely inappropriate, that now have been adopted, and how do different generations among today’s Amish view the norms, mores, and Ordnungs of years past? What changes may be adopted in the future — and, will those changes have an impact on the sustained existence of the Amish people, culture, and religion?

      I think it’s difficult for those of any generation — whether Amish, English, or whatever — to truly comprehend the past as it was lived by their predecessors. I believe it’s likely equally hard to imagine what life will be like for one’s descendants. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has published books and research papers on these topics, but I guess what I’d love to come across someday is something concise, illustrated (via drawings and permitted photographs), and really read an explanation. I love those sorts of things.

      Well, I hope this made sense. And, I hope those Amish who use horse-and-buggies don’t give them up! So many fine standardbred (and many other) horses find such good “second careers” as driving horses, I’d hate to see that lost.

      1. This is really interesting to think about Sadie. Over which interval had Amish life changed the most? I am at first tempted to say the latest, but really the first 2 or 3 saw some pretty big changes in terms of popular technology. Then there are the religious changes going on during different periods.

    11. City Slicker

      Solar Powered Buggies

      Another consideration would be the economic impact of solar powered buggies on the [horse] manure market.
      Fewer horses = less manure
      Less manure = decreased [limited] supplies
      Decreased [limited] supplies = higher prices

      Although I guess the politicians could debate everything, and thus keep the market up …

      1. OldKat

        For real?

        Is there really a market for horse manure, or are you just being facetious?

        If there really is a market for that stuff; I’ve been sitting on a gold mine and didn’t know it!

        1. Alice Mary

          OldKat, I’ve seen (and purchased) what’s labeled as “composted manure” for many years, to apply to my garden. I’m not sure if it’s equine or bovine or what, but it is COMPOSTED. Maybe ’cause it won’t “burn” plants as readily as un-composted manure? That’s just a guess–maybe someone else would know better than I.

          Alice Mary

          1. "ewe-poo" is superior

            If you’re in the Central Illinois area, try “ewe-poo”–claimed to be the very best for gardens. Available at the farm supply stores.

        2. City Slicker

          Old Kat: "For real?"

          My tongue was firmly in cheek, Sir — except for the last line about politicians being able to supply any manure market!

    12. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      Sun in their eyes

      I am not convinced of this in Amish circles, and I know as well as anyone else, I am not Amish. It might come to it one day, this or some future alternative, say if there was some unforeseen horse extinction. Humans like and love horses so I don’t think we’re going to see the end of the species generally, and I doubt we’ll see the Amish drop living breathing horsepower for solar horsepower.

      It’s just too, mmm, I don’t know, not-Amish, although I know some Amish have solar panels on their farms for various reasons, but I can’t imagine an Amish family scooting about some back-farm place with little to no noise instead of the familiar clatter of hooves.

      I admit it is a logical alternative for use Englishers, but the big auto companies and big oil forbid it, so, yeah (sorry for going all conspiracy buff on you, I really am not a conspiracy buff, the Lennon joke in the Rockome post was just a fluke and not an indication of my mistrust of your American government or my Canadian one)

      1. OldKat

        No conspiracy buff ...

        I am not a conspiracy buff either. I will say this though; people probably SHOULD look at government (all government) with a jaundiced eye. Has anyone seen ANYTHING that ANY governmental body has done lately that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about government in general? Have you seen anything from government that makes you go … hmmmm, about government? I know I have seen plenty of the later, but not much of the former.

        I don’t think it is so much a conspiracy of government as it is a philosophy that says that WE work for THEM, instead of the other way around. So don’t feel bad about being skeptical of government; IMHO mostly they have EARNED that skepticism.

        BTW: The “Amish” horseless carriage is pretty neat, no doubt about it.

    13. AmyJo

      ? Link to local TV clip abt horseless Solar-powered buggy

      I can’t access any clips from the article but, had intended to share this after I saw it on the local news.

    14. Sandra Kathleen

      Thoroughbred Compost

      Here in Lexington, KY, the company that markets straw to a horse barn will pick up the waste straw (and manure). Which they compost and sell as Thoroughbred Compost.

      Where I think the horseless Solar-powered buggy might fit in with Amish is in areas where small parcels of land (10 acres or less) that would not allow for the humane keeping of horses and a viable agricultural living. Five to ten acres would allow an industry built around herbs, lettuces, and market gardening…maybe even intensive fruit growing done in cordons.

      The thing is, I don’t exactly see something like a golf cart having enough torque/ horsepower to pull much of anything to much effect…it also makes me wonder how much attention individuals get as a result of invention…which I thought was somewhat counter to Amish practices??

    15. Ed

      This “buggy” reminds me of Amish technology and how it can develop in parallel with conventional technology.

      Imagine if, for whatever reasons, the internal combustion engine was never invented but society otherwise progressed. We could well have seen “cars” like this being invented and filling our roadways.