Although electronic cars were a major advancement in transportation, we have yet to see one that is accessible for people with disabilities.
Luckily, one man came through with Kenguru (pronounced “kangaroo”), an electronic vehicle designed by Istvan Kissaroslaki with wheelchair users in mind.
While it’s been around for a while, the gas-powered versions are too costly and can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000. A Kenguru is only $25,000 for aspiring owners.
Although the Kenguru can only fit one driver, it is still spacious and comfortable. You can simply click a button to open the Kenguru’s rear panel and extend the ramp.
The car doesn’t have a trunk for easy access, but I think everyone will agree that it’s a worthy trade-off.
The tiny electric vehicle is simple to drive. The driver can use the handlebars to control the vehicle, which is similar to a motorcycle’s steering wheel. These controls allow drivers to brake or accelerate without using their feet.
Kenguru also features a wheelchair-locking mechanism that won’t let the car start until the driver’s wheelchair is secured.
And because it’s compact and lightweight, the Kenguru is considered a scooter and requires no driver’s license to operate.
Istvan’s life-changing invention quickly caught the attention of many. The Hungarian economy crashed, and the company was forced to repay its loan.
They had to rely heavily on fundraising to keep the business afloat until Stacy Zoern (an attorney from Texas) came along.
Stacy has a neuromuscular condition that affects her mobility and has used a wheelchair all her life. After her $80,000 modified van was stolen, Stacy began to search for a vehicle.
During her search, she found Kenguru but was disappointed to learn that it was only available in Hungary. After a few phone calls, she was able to establish a meaningful partnership.
Stacy and Istvan moved their company to Austin, Texas. In 2014, Kengurus had been fully manufactured in the U.S. and the demand for them continues to grow.
“It’s been fantastic. I mean, we’ve taken this to trade shows all over the world—New York, Germany, Dubai—and everywhere people are so excited,” Stacy said. “We’ve got people on waitlists that want to buy them. I get emails from all over the world, places I’ve never heard of that want to buy Kenguru.”
These cars have a top speed of 28 mph and a range of 43 to 68 miles, but they’re enough to give wheelchair users the freedom to take quick trips to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment all by themselves.
Those who can’t afford to buy a Kenguru for $25,000 may be granted a discount. As electric vehicles, Kengurus qualify for federal and state-level discounts because of the “green incentive.” Some individuals may also qualify for the “vocational rehabilitation incentive” if the car will be used for work.
Today, the company’s biggest challenge is funding. They don’t have enough money yet to meet the growing demand for Kenguru units. But despite these financial struggles, Stacy and Istvan continue to think up ways to improve the car’s design.
The next goal is to create a joystick model that can be used with larger wheelchairs. This design will allow drivers with less upper-body strength to operate the vehicle—something that has kept Stacy from driving her own Kenguru just yet.
“Right now there’s dealers that we have in Germany, Spain, in the U.S. that want to sign up but we don’t have enough funding to build more cars,” she explained. “It’s an interesting problem to have as a start-up company that we can’t meet the demand there is out there because we don’t have enough money to buy the inventory to build the cars.”
The Kenguru addresses this need.
Watch the video below to see Kenguru in action.
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