Good Thinking

Rio Firefly handcycle turns any wheelchair into a power scooter

The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility, here shown in laid-back low rider style
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility, here shown in laid-back low rider style
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - ergonomic adjustment options
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - ergonomic adjustment options
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - handlebar controls
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - handlebar controls
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - attaches quickly to most wheelchairs
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - attaches quickly to most wheelchairs
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - front wheel and brake
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - front wheel and brake
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility, here shown in laid-back low rider style
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility, here shown in laid-back low rider style
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - ergonomic adjustment options
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - ergonomic adjustment options
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - handlebar controls
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - handlebar controls
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - attaches quickly to most wheelchairs
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - attaches quickly to most wheelchairs
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - front wheel and brake
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The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - front wheel and brake

Walking the dog, popping out to the shops, going sightseeing … it's not that wheelchair users can't do these things, it's just that they're a pain in the butt. Or, more often, a pain in the shoulder or a case of carpal tunnel or RSI. Everything takes more planning when you're in a chair – and if you're not feeling super energetic, any trip further than a few hundred yards starts looking like a car ride.

That's why this gadget looks pretty nifty to me. The Firefly, from Rio Mobility, is a freestanding electric handcycle that clips on to a wide range of wheelchairs in less than a minute, and turns them into mini power trikes. Have a look:

The Firefly Attachable Electric Handcycle by Rio Mobility

Once it's attached and your two small front wheels are lifted off the ground, you're ready to hit a top speed of 18 km/h (11 mph). That might not sound super quick, but then 16 km/h is about as fast as most gym treadmills will let you run. And it's a good deal faster than you're going to get your chair going manually, short of pointing it down a big hill.

The Firefly uses an automatic motorcycle-style set of controls, with a twist grip throttle and two brake levers. There's a speedo and odometer, a reverse gear and a park brake, and enough adjustment to make ergonomic sense in most cases.

The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - handlebar controls
The Firefly, from Rio Mobility - handlebar controls

The range is quoted at about 24 km (around 15 mi) per charge. That's significant, as it brings most of the things an able-bodied person would choose to walk for into range. Taking a scooter arrangement like this lets you enjoy the outdoors a bit rather than being cooped up in a car.

The Firefly weighs in a little under 15 kg (33 lb), so depending on your level of disability you may well be able to pick it up and throw it in the car. But I see it more as a short to medium-range alternative that lets you leave the car at home and have a slightly less isolated trip.

Mobility gear can be very expensive, and in that regard, the Firefly is a pleasant surprise, clocking in under US$2,000. The company also offers a couple of other manual and electric assist handcycle options, as well as a very nifty dual lever drive system that drives your wheelchair using a pair of handles not unlike the top bit of an elliptical trainer.

Source: Rio Mobility

11 comments
Sharky
Now don't get all PC on my here, just think about this, imagine a tandem one, side by side or behind, like a couple doin it together? That would look cool... Sharky
Booleanboy
What a good example of clear-thinking design to provide a cost-effective solution to a genuine problem. As the article mentions, mobility aids, especially powered ones, seem hugely expensive for what they offer so it is great to see designers addressing this rather unglamorous area of the market and building (relatively) affordable solutions.
Domingo Mojica
Great idea. But, please no drinking while "driving".
Slowburn
What a nifty idea.
StWils
I would be concerned about center-of-gravity and rolling dynamics. A manual wheelchair is not a bicycle and the users are not athletic so the speeds mentioned would be a bit of a concern. A small bump at a slow walk or a slightly unlevel sidewalk or bit of pavement could rapidly become enough to roll a trike with an obviously less-than-athletic rider at speeds of more than 3 to 4 mph. 3 to 4 mph is a fast walk for an able adult. Faster is moving into bicycle range. This kind of conveyance will not have a suspension able to adapt to rough surfaces well.
biker68
check out a simpler design fro Batec Mobility on other sites, both a great ideas.
Slowburn
@ StWils So the ride won't be any softer than an unsprung bicycle. The greatest danger is the wheelchair suffering catastrophic damage and dumping the rider.
Gayle Lin
I didn't read anything about lights. Did I miss it?
Slowburn
@ Gayle Gardner Lin It is the equivalent of somebody walking.
Luther Wood
I can see it opening up avenues for "rolls" in the park, etc.