For most wheelchair users a modified vehicle costing up to $80,000 is their only option.
Such financial challenges have barred many wheelchair users from driving a car at all, and eco-friendly transport was surely out of the question.
Then along came the Kenguru, the first low-speed electric vehicle designed specifically for wheelchair users.
The Kenguru (pronounced “kangaroo”) can accommodate one passenger seated in his or her wheelchair for a range of up to 60 miles. The Kenguru has only a single door to the rear of the vehicle for direct wheelchair access. It’s opened by remote control.
Inside the driver is nestled in a 772-lb fiberglass cocoon 83.6 inches long, 63.8 wide and 60 tall. That’s 14.8 inches shorter than a Smart car for two, and only 0.6 inches wider: extremely compact, in other words. The vehicle’s weight with the batteries increases to 1200 lb.
Power from the batteries is delivered to two 2-kW motors located on the rear axle. The Kenguru is positioned for short inner-city trips, affording a maximum speed of 28 mph, a range of between 43 and 68 miles and a climbing ability limited to 20-percent gradients. Motorcycle-style handlebars provide steering, though a joystick-controlled version is currently in development.
The Kenguru is priced at US$25,000, but that this can be significantly reduced where electric vehicle or vocational rehabilitation incentives are available. Community Cars is currently seeking investment through RocketHub to develop the joystick-controlled model.
The vehicle, which was originally developed in Hungary, was brought to the U.S. last year by Pflugerville, Texas lawyer Stacy Zoern, who is all too familiar with the struggles facing wheelchair users seeking independence. Zoern became frustrated with her lack of mobility and took to the internet on a quest for independence.
After discovering the Kenguru and learning that the Hungarian manufacturer ran out of funding before putting it into production, she resolved to raise the cash herself and bring the vehicle to the United States. A mere two years later, the cars were in small-scale production in her hometown of Pflugerville, Texas.
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