For thousands of years, the only kind of "hybrid vehicle" involving equids was the mule–half horse, half donkey. Today, however, European scientists have designed a 21st century equine hybrid that’s half horse, half machine.

Developed from electric bicycle technology, this "hippomobile" ("hippo" is Latin for horse) is intended to help horses more easily do a task they’ve been doing for centuries: pull carts and carriages. And in an eco-conscious world, many people support this type of "horsepower," if it’s used safely and in the best interest of the animal.

"The return of the horse (as a working transport provider) can only be achieved on a large scale if human intervention guarantees the well-being of the animal," said Claude Cremet, who manages Cheval Cité, an organization that currently handles trash collection and plant watering via draft horse-drawn carts in Macon, France.

"A renaissance in the field of animal traction will therefore not mean a return to the conditions of the 18th and 19th centuries as some might fear," he said. "Completely the opposite in fact, as this return will involve modern practices, with horses being used under economic, ecological, and ethical conditions, failing which no such return will take place."

With carriage horse welfare coming under international scrutiny of late, the Swiss National Stud in Avenches has instigated research into the electrically-powered hybrid cart and how it can prevent equine fatigue.

"Our research is aimed at studying the influence of the practiced technique (the electr