Though its undoubtedly true to say that mobility vehicles designed for wheelchair access exist, like AM General's MV-1 these generally relegate the wheelchair user to backseat passenger. Vehicles that do allow a wheelchair behind the controls are expensive made-to-order conversions of people carriers and mini-buses. The Kenguru is about as far from a people carrier as it's possible to get, being a small nimble electric vehicle, but one designed specifically for quick, easy access by, and driving from, a wheelchair. Its makers claim it is the first drive-from-wheelchair electric car.
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 350-kg (772-lb) fiberglass cocoon 2125 mm (83.6 in) long, 1620 mm (63.8 in) wide and 1525 m (60 in) tall. That's 375 mm (14.8 in) shorter than a smart fortwo, and only 15 mm (0.6 in) wider: extremely compact, in other words. Empty weight with the batteries increases to 550 kg (1200 lb).
Power from the batteries is delivered to two 2-kW motors located on the rear axle. These afford a maximum speed of 45 km/h (28 mph), a range of between 70 and 110 km (43 and 68 miles) and a climbing ability limited to 20-percent gradients - modest, but Kenguru is positioned very much for short inner-city trips (the phrase "enough is as good as a feast" irresistibly springs to mind). Motorcycle-style handlebars provide steering, though a joystick-controlled version is currently in development.
Initially developed by Hungarian company Kenguru Services, the Kenguru has design is at least six years old. It was spotted by Texan lawyer Stacy Zoern (a wheelchair user herself) who setup Community Cars which now manufacturers Kengurus in Pflugerville.
The Kenguru is priced at US$25,000, but that this can be significantly reduced where electric vehicle or vocational rehabilitation incentives are available. The vehicle is set for a US launch in 6 to 12 months. Distribution in a number of European countries should follow. Community Cars is currently seeking investment through RocketHub to develop the joystick-controlled model.
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