The birth of electronic cars signaled a significant advancement in transportation, but we have yet to see one designed 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.
It has been around for a while, but the gas-powered ones are too costly, running anywhere between $40,000 and $100,000. In contrast, aspiring owners only need to shell out $25,000 to drive a Kenguru.
A Kenguru can only accommodate its driver, but it remains spacious and comfortable. To enter, all you have to do is click a button for the rear panel to lift and for the ramp to extend.
The car doesn’t have a trunk for easy access, but I think everyone will agree that it’s a worthy trade-off.
This tiny electric vehicle is easy to drive. Instead of a steering wheel, the driver can control it with handlebars, like a motorcycle. These controls have buttons that allow drivers to accelerate and brake 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. However, the Hungarian economy crashed, causing the company to lose its loan.
They had to rely on fundraising to keep their business afloat until Stacy Zoern, an attorney from Texas, came into the picture.
Stacy suffers from a neuromuscular condition and has used a wheelchair her entire life. She found herself looking for a vehicle after her $80,000 modified van was totaled just months after she got it.
She stumbled upon Kenguru during her search but was discouraged upon learning that it was only available in Hungary. However, after a few phone calls, a meaningful partnership was created.
Stacy and Istvan moved the company to Austin, Texas. By 2014, Kengurus were being fully produced in the U.S., and the demand for them keeps growing stronger.
“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.
Their next goal is to make a joystick model that can accommodate bigger 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.”
Easy transportation has always been a considerable obstacle for wheelchair users, but the Kenguru addresses that need.
See the Kenguru in action in the video below.
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