In changing times, amid increased regulation and global unrest, automakers are striving to make their vehicles cleaner and more efficient. The same is true with vehicles designed for the physically disabled. In the past, commercial vans had to be adapted to accommodate wheelchairs, often at the cost of efficiency. The Kenguru EV, with its absence of seats, seeks to address that.
The Kenguru, on its website, describes itself quite concisely:
“I’m a small, efficient, closed body type wheelchair fitting vehicle that provides very easy and quick access.”
The Kenguru is slow but steady and, unlike the proverbial tortoise, is not likely to win any races. But it does provide unprecedented mobility for those with mobility issues. It has a range of 60 miles and a top speed of 28 mile per hour. It has two 2-kilowatt motors, one for each rear wheel. The battery takes about eight hours to completely charge. The current model uses motorcycle-like handlebar controls, with three gear setting: forward, neutral and drive.
The electric hatch in the rear, when opened, also lowers a ramp for easy wheelchair access. The ramp can be lowered to curb or street height.
[If you are having trouble getting an automobile loan, look no more.]
To this writer, the wedge-shaped Kenguru resembles the cab of a minivan with the van part cut off. More graphically, Autoevolution said:
“It … looks exactly like a big piece of cheese.”
Stacy Zoern, the CEO of Community Cars, the Pflugerville, Texas-based maker of the Kenguru, has been physically disabled and bound to a wheelchair her entire life. When she learned of the Kenguru, which was developed in Hungary and seeking investors, she jumped on board.
Looking forward, Community Car, which now employs 10 people, plans to develop a larger, joystick-driven model to accommodate bigger wheelchairs. Zoern herself is looking forward to that version, since she is unable to drive the current handlebar model.
The price tag
Translogic estimates it costs about $14,000 to do a wheelchair conversion on a factory van. Although not yet for sale, Community Cars says the Kenguru will be price-tagged at about $25,000. But buyers will qualify for the federal “green incentive,” and some will also qualify for the “vocational rehabilitation incentive,” if they use their Kenguru for transportation to and from a job. Those incentives, according to Zoern, can drop the price “in some cases [down to] 20,000, in some cases [to] zero.”
The price tag, in the opinion of Autoevolution, “is extremely steep considering it’s not a particularly advanced piece of transportation tech.” The automotive site recommends the company reduce the cost before launching if it wants to find a solid market. As Autoevolution wisely points out, disabled people don’t like to be gouged simply because they are disabled.
Addresses real need
While cost may be an issue, the Kenguru addresses a real social concern in a nifty, cute and efficient package. And bonus, Bradley Hasemeyer of Translogic said “it’s fun to drive.”