In 2001, Austin lawyer Stacy Zoern totaled her van. It had been customized to accommodate her wheelchair, and it could’ve cost up to $80,000 to replace. So she stopped driving altogether.
While doing some googling a decade later, Zoern discovered the Kenguru (Hungarian for “kangaroo” and pronounced the same), an EV concept specifically designed for people who use wheelchairs. Its creator, Istvan Kissaroslaki, had all but given up on it, as the recession meant a big loan fell through. Zoern convinced him to move to Texas, and together they found 30 investors and raised the $4 million needed to get the car on the road. And in 12 to 18 months, drivers with disabilities will be able to snag a Kenguru!
The EV’s sticker price is about $25,000, but thanks to mobility and clean energy tax incentives, buyers may not have to pay nearly that much. The cars, which are even smaller than a Smart Car, are made in America, feature LED lights, and can go up to 25 miles per hour (they’re designed for local use, with an estimated range of 60 miles). Batteries power two 2-kW motors in the back, and the Kenguru takes about eight hours to charge.
This is a big deal. The Kenguru site explains why:
Imagine you can’t jump into a car quickly when it is raining, are unable to ride a bike, and most public transportation is not accessible to you. Transportation is a huge obstacle for people who use wheelchairs. It is often time consuming, physically difficult, expensive, or just unavailable. This results in a disconnect from the community, an inability to work, and a lower quality of life.
Do you take transportation for granted? Can you imagine having to depend on someone every time you wanted to leave your house?
Although obviously not all 3.3 million Americans using wheelchairs will be able to afford a Kenguru, it sure beats an $80,000 van. Here’s to making transportation more accessible!