Watch out, Smart car, there's a new tiny electric vehicle in town, and it could revolutionize the way more than 3 million Americans get around.
Weighing in at around 1,000 lbs., the Kenguru—Hungarian for "kangaroo"—is an electric vehicle designed specifically for wheelchair users. Drivers roll their wheelchair in through a pop-up backdoor and use motorcycle-like handlebars to steer. The car, which goes into production in the next year, provides unprecedented access to transportation for America's 3.3 million wheelchair users.
The concept for Kenguru originated in Hungary six years ago, with automaker Istvan Kissaroslaki, but the project never got off the ground because of financial troubles, The Verge reports. Kissaroslaki lost 2 million Euros in loans when the 2008 recession hit. He was all but done with the venture.
That's when Texas lawyer Stacy Zoern stepped in. For Zoern, accessible and affordable transportation for wheelchair users is personal—she has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair. So when she heard about Kenguru, she called Kissaroslaki and convinced him to move the company to the U.S.
"Having experienced my own frustration with lack of transportation, I wanted to do everything in my power to bring this vehicle to market," Zoern said.
The two worked together to set up Community Cars, which now manufactures the Kenguru, and have raised the $4 million needed to produce the E.V.
Despite its sports car paint job, the seven-foot car isn't exactly meant for speed demons. With a maximum speed of just 25 miles per hour and an estimated range of about 60 miles on an eight-hour charge, it's designed more for commuting and errands around town. Kenguru’s $25,000 price tag can be made more affordable with tax rebates.
Zoern and Kissaroslaki are already planning an upgrade for Kenguru 2.0: It will feature a joystick-controlled “steering wheel” for those users who do not have the upper-body strength to operate the current model.
Twenty-four years after the Americans With Disabilities Act brought ramps and lifts to nearly every crosswalk and office building in the country, the Kenguru could be the next leap forward in improving mobility for wheelchair users.