eV is a wheelchair project which started as an idea of Andreas Bhend and Samuel Uebersax at university. They are industrial designers from Switzerland, who worked during one semester to realize it. “We were a really good team I think and we worked days and nights with much effort on it”, Andreas says. 

eV is not a typical wheelchair. They called it an electric bicycle for people with paraplegia. Why a bicycle? “Because you can drive much faster than with a common wheelchair…” the designer explains, “…even in the curves the chair is stable at high speeds”.

The frame is shaped like a V and this is the reason for its name: ‘e’ for electrical and ‘V’ for the shape. But the importance of the V is that thanks to its shape the wheelchair remains stable at high speeds. “We can move the wheels out and make the wheelbase longer and wider”.

Moreover, the V frame, which is in aluminium, allows the user to drive in two different ways, the indoor mode and the sport mode. In the latter case, the wheelchair is 40 centimetres longer and 30 wider, because it calls for more stability, especially in the bends. That feature, according Andreas, is the most important in their design.

He describes the different uses. “The idea is that in the morning you can drive with the ‘sport mode’ to the office, probably with plenty electrical support so you don’t sweat. To access the office, you have to use the elevator. With a common wheelchair for races… these long ones… you can´t change it. But with the eV you just change in to the ‘indoor mode’ and then you can work in the office at your desk. Later in the evening you can drive home again in the ‘sport mode’, maybe with less electrical support for more physical training. At home you once again use the ‘indoor mode’”.

Samuel wrote on his webpage, “the indoor mode is used inside of buildings at a slower speed. By blocking the back wheel with the disc brake and pushing the gas at the same time, the mode can be changed into the outdoor mode”.

eV is thought of as a chair for daily use, which is supported by two electrical hub motors, the batteries of which are in the frame. It is provide with e-bike technologies and driven like a hand bike. By pressing the left brake the chair turns left and by pressing the right one it turns right. Pressing both brakes at the same times stop the eV.

 

Just an idea

This wheelchair was Andreas and Samuel’s project at university, because they had to develop new ideas for wheelchairs with the focus on traveling. They interviewed Andreas Pröve, a German writer, journalist and paraplegic, who inspired them.

The eV is just an idea now. Andreas explains that there is a long way ahead before it is developed into a commercial product. “The only way would be to find a factory with the right knowledge and the interest to develop eV further”.

However, they are hopeful. They won the RedDot concept award, which is a worldwide famous design award, and they hope with it to reach interested factories to develop their wheelchair.

Nonetheless, they are fascinated with his project, because “we can show the world that there´s a lot of potential for improvement with more ideas and possibilities surfacing all the time. We know that to drive an eV would be absolutely great and fun. We carried out many tests with a rebuilt wheelchair and our developed steering system was just fantastic and a lot of fun to drive”.

 

You can get more information on Andreas by clicking here, and here for more on Samuel.

 

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Photos and video: courtesy of Andreas Bhend.

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The eV certainly looks the buisness but I fear it isn't for everyone who is paraplegic. If it is faster than the conventional electric wheelchairs and scooters then it will have to be licenced by the DVLA and perhaps some consideration should be given to some type of protective head gear. Most cyclists wear head protection nowadays and given the fact that the eV is longer and wider when in its' 'sport' mode I doubt it would be allowed on the pavement. Another possible problem is weather. How stable is it in high winds or frosty/icy conditions and what protection is there against the rain? It looks like it might be difficult to use a waterproof for fear of it getting caught in a wheel or some other part of it. It doesn't look as though there is much protection for the driver if it was in a collision or was just overturned. At least in an electric chair the person's hips are fairly well protected. It would also be interesting to see the price tag of this 'convertable'. Most of the more recent wheelchair ideas have come with a price tag way in excess of what the regular Joe Public could afford so it would be nice for once to see something on the market that isn't going to require a remortgage of the house. Having said all that I think it would certainly appeal to the younger paraplegics and sporty disabled amongst us. I had a motor cycle many years ago and can still remember the rush of adrenaline I got every time I went out for a spin. Now I have an electric wheelchair that I use 24/7 and wish to goodness someone would redesign the joystick control. Whoever designed the original obviously never considered the dangers of placing it in such an open position,where anything and anyone could knock against it and send the occupant of the chair crashing into things. The joystick is so sensitive so that when reversing down a ramp from a taxi to the pavement the chair invariably goes off centre. I always drive down the ramp on the slowest speed and barely touch the joystick but it still goes off course much to the annoyance of the taxi drivers! I have crashed more times than I care to remember and it is not due to bad driving, it is due to the joystick being knocked or caught on something.  Recently a helpful cashier leant over to put my shopping bag onto the chair and as she did she accidentally leant on the joystick which sent both of us into a large display. Luckily no one was hurt but I worry the day will come when a serious accident will occur. In crowded areas, like the recent craft fair I attended at the SECC, it is a nightmare. My hand constantly hovered over the joystick trying to prevent it being knocked but unfortunately the crowd became so dense that I could no longer prevent it being knocked and my chair ran over someone's foot. It was awful. The poor lady screamed out in pain and I felt dreadful. So, if the inventors of the eV have a few spare moments from tweaking their new invention, perhaps they could come up with a new design for the original electric wheelchair. I wish them every success with their new eV and have to say I am very impressed with their highly innovative idea.

Hi Ailsa,

You raise an interesting point about the DVLA having to license it. I hadn't event thought of that. And yes I totally agree with you that "designer" wheelchairs, in spite of being wonderfully designed, are all too often far too expensive. I always wonder how many of these they actually manage to sell. Would be good to get a response from the designers.

Hi Paul,

I watched a TV program about a year or so ago and it was about a paraplegic gentleman who was fed up with the way wheelchairs were manufactured. He said his wheelchair was too heavy and difficult to fold up and put in the car beside him and too cumbersome to manually wheel himself around so he set about designing his own wheelchair. He wanted a manual chair that was super light and folded down easily so he could put it in his car. I sat glued to the TV thinking 'Fantastic! Finally a chair invented by a disabled person for disabled people'. I could hardly wait to see the finished product and hear what price it would be. To cut a long story short, he understandably had several disasters one of which was a central point kept cracking as it was not strong enough to to take the stress and weight as it was supposed to, but finally with all problems solved,he had a model to display at one of the new invention shows. My hopes were shattered at the unveiling when I saw that the wheelchair had little or no back to it and I was at a loss as to how anyone could transfer safely into this wheelchair. Straight away I thought how I and many other paraplegics would not be able to use it. One of the mistakes I thought he had made was the fact that he had designed it for himself and had used what his abilities were as a guide line rather than taking a cross section of the paraplegic wheelchair users in this country and getting them to fill in a simple questionnaire about how they transferred in and out of their wheelchair and what back or other support they needed in their chair. I think he was so desperate to produce a wheelchair that was the lightest ever built that it clouded his reasoning and he forgot why he had started the project in the first place which was to make wheelchair user's lives easier. We didn't see many people try out the chair because one of the original problems, the cracking of the central point, reoccurred. Oh yes! and the price......a mere £30,000 although I think he hoped to get it down to £12,000. Seriously I don't think anyone would buy it for that. I certainly can't see the NHS purchasing any of them. Sadly, he couldn't convince anyone to finance his idea possibly because of the recurring problem of the central hinge and the high price tag. It would probably make a super sports chair. I can definitely see it being used for games like basket/netball and racing although I worry that the lightness of the chair might make it unstable and if the central point problem doesn't go away then it would constantly be breaking.

I think he had a good idea and I am sure with a few tweaks and a huge reduction in cost he would eventually get there. Whether the majority of paraplegics would be using one in years to come? I can't see it myself but then stranger things have happened.

£30,000 for a wheelchair that is prone to cracking? I'm a little confused as to how it can cost that much.

The idea sounds good though. Maybe with a bit more input from a wider demographic of wheelchair users and designers, it could be really good.

Do you happen to remember the name of the designer or the programme he featured on?

Hi Paul,

Great news! Having searched the internet I've found the web site for the wheelchair. The web page is carbonblacksystem.com It's obviously come a long, long way since the expensive prototype. I'm not sure if I'm reading it right as only had time for a quick glance, but it looks like it is now £7,800. It was back in 2012 when I watched the documentary and of course when you are making a prototype all expenses come out of the inventors pocket. I remember he could not get backing from anyone and I really felt for him but hats off to him for persevering. I think the £30,000 must have been what he himself put up financially.

Anyway I'm glad to say I found his website so you can read for yourself. If you also google "how much for a carbon black wheelchair", you will find even more info. There is something on YouTube and Facebook too. The first one sold on the 7th February 2014 and I think he is an amazing person to never give up on his dream of making his perfect wheelchair. I'm sure in the years to come the price will go down to a more affordable price. However I imagine sporting paraplegics would be very interested in it. I notice he does say it is for the more action able people. Anyway enjoy the read.

Kindest regards,

June

Hi June,

Funnily enough just this week we are featuring an interview with the very man. Andrew Slorance spoke to one of our volunteers recently. You can read the story here. He is indeed an inspiring guy.

http://www.bespoken.me/forum/topics/a-wheelchair-that-is-a-dream-co...

That's fantastic! I remember being glued to the documentary 2 years ago and even shedding a tear when things were not going so well for him. I was delighted to find his web page and to hear that he never gave up on his dream and therefore had managed to finally put it on the market.

I feel so strongly about disabled gadgets, chairs etc. being designed by disable people where possible. Whenever I come across a so-called fit for disabled purpose item, I invariably find that the item is far from ideal. One example is ATM machines. When they were lowered (and not all of them have been) I noticed that they obviously took an average - tall person's height sitting in a wheelchair as the measurement for how low to make the machine. I'm a very small person, just under 5 foot so I still have to stretch to reach so when people are either making adjustments or starting from scratch, I wish they would remember that measurements vary from person to person. A new lower 'average' might be the answer. I often can't see what the instructions are on the ATM due to the sun glare on the glass.  Actually able bodied people have told me they can't see the writing either! I have a power chair (NHS variety) and have lots of problems that I'm sure other disabled people have to. I'm so frustrated at the number places I cannot access for the sake of a small ramp. Not to say that councils should take a better look at their pavements and the lack of sloped areas at crossings. It's no use having a 'tactile' area for the blind if they are then going to have a nasty fall off the raised kerb. Oh I could go on but this is not the place to do it - sorry about that!

Anyway I wish Andrew Slorance every success and of course eV wheelchairs. It's wonderful to see the wide variety between wheelchairs I can hardly wait to see the next innovative design.

Best wishes,

June

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