Electric vehicles have reached a new milestone with the wheelchair accessible Kenguru EV. The tiny electric car is the first green vehicle made specifically for drivers who use wheelchairs. It doesn’t need any gas to run, while giving wheelchair users independence, a perfect combo!
The Kenguru created by Istvan Kissaroslaki in Budapest, looked like it was going to permanently reside in the “idea stage” after a series of financial misfortunes. But nearly three years ago a Texas lawyer, Stacy Zoern, researched wheelchair accessible cars and came across Kissaroslaki’s design. Zoern suffers from a neuromuscular condition, which has caused her to use a wheelchair her whole life. After a crash destroyed her $80,000 wheelchair-accessible van, she needed a new mode of transportation.
Zoern eventually made a phone call to Kissaroslaki and soon they put together a business, Community Cars. Despite the original financial issues plaguing the company, Zoern was able to raise nearly $4 million to fund the development of the vehicles by more than 30 investors. After two years of working on separate continents Zoern convinced Kissaroslaki to move to Austin and they began to start production in the U.S.
The American made Kenguru is even smaller than a smart car at only seven feet long and five feet high, fitting into most bike lanes. Considered a “community car,” it goes up to 25 miles per hour with range of about 60 miles (it’s meant for local use). The two 2-kw motors are powered by batteries, which take about eight hours to charge.
The throttle and brakes are attached to steering handlebars (similar to a four-wheeler) which allow drivers to only need their arms for control. Community Cars is also currently working on a joy-stick controller for those with limited strength. Drivers enter the car through the back hatch, which opens with a remote and slides out a ramp. Once inside the driver can press a button for it close and secure his or her wheelchair into place. From there, the driver is ready to go!
One of the most important aspects of this vehicle is the price. Wheelchair accessible cars run at about $80,000, and converting a standard vehicle to allow for a wheelchair can add about $14,000 to the original price. The Kenguru is only $25,000, but can also be discounted and even free with the help of mobility and clean energy tax incentives.
More than three million Americans use wheelchairs, and Zoern wants to ensure that those who need a vehicle can get one. She says,
“This is a niche market. It’s not going to be the next G.M. We don’t have huge aspirations, but we want to make the Kenguru available to all those who want or need it.”
Community Cars plans to sell 400 vehicles in its first year, increasing to about 2,500 vehicles each year after. They hope to have their first line of Kengurus available for sale in 12 to 18 months.
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