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Electric Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles
Last updated on July 10, 2023
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The ideal WAV in our language translates into a wheelchair-accessible conversion that allows a wheelchair passenger to be in an inclusive position. Inclusivity means many things where wheelchair users and wheelchair-accessible vehicles, or WAVs, are concerned.
Inclusivity, from an experienced observer’s point of view, must encompass a wheelchair user safely entering, securely settling, and safely and comfortably travelling in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle where they want or need to be in any given WAV.
Inclusivity is no mean feat when every single wheelchair user is an individual with individual needs and wants.
The complex cycle that leads to the most accessible vehicle for any given wheelchair user must end with a safe and comfortable exit of a suitable WAV or an eWAV.
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A primary aim for a converted wheelchair accessible vehicle is to ensure a wheelchair user looks like a seated passenger in a vehicle because that’s how the manufacturer designed the vehicle to carry passengers in the first place.
Again, inclusivity is not easy to achieve when converting a standard vehicle of any make or model.
Electric wheelchair-accessible vehicles or eWAVs do not lend themselves well to conversion for inclusive wheelchair access because their battery location is usually central to the vehicle under the floor.
Central and immovable batteries prevent a vehicle floor from being lowered; therefore, the standard internal height of a vehicle is the accessible height for all wheelchair users.
A low and limiting internal height is rarely ideal, given many wheelchair users generally sit taller in their wheelchairs than seated passengers.
Furthermore, wheelchair access to an electric mobility vehicle requires a lift or a ramp. Whilst a lift can be ideal, the internal height of a flat floor WAV means many wheelchair users will not be able to enter as the accessible entry height will most likely be lower than the internal vehicle height.
Or a wheelchair user will be too tall to be in a flat floor WAV; whilst they may fit, a wheelchair user could be too close to the vehicle roof to travel safely.
A rear ramp conversion means a vehicle floor can be cut to give access, but the central floor area cannot be lowered due to the battery location.
Not being able to lower a vehicle floor means that electric WAVs can only accommodate wheelchair users in the rear of a vehicle because only here can enough clearance be achieved to allow the entry and securing of a wheelchair user.
A rear wheelchair user position is not disastrous for those who, when seeking a WAV, will only seek an electric vehicle because it means there are eWAVs available for them.
However, inclusivity will only be available to wheelchair users who are short enough in their wheelchair to be in a converted WAV.
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Most electric vehicles that can be converted with a rear ramp are longer wheelbase versions. Longer vehicle models will have enough distance behind the vehicle’s under-floor batteries to the back of the vehicle to allow the floor to be cut and so lowered.
Lowering a floor leading from a ramp into a vehicle would require a satisfactory gradient. Ensuring a suitable gradient is achieved can be done with the addition of lowering suspension, which would be activated for the safe entry and exit for wheelchair users.
Correspondingly, shorter vehicles can be built with a lift as they may not require as much modification of the vehicle floor. However, a wheelchair user must be able to enter and safely be in a flat floor wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
Cynics might say you’re just a dealer in used WAVs, so you won’t be interested in being positive about electric wheelchair-accessible vehicles when trying to shift nasty diesel and petrol WAVs before the utopian deadline of 2030.
We do deal in used WAVs, but we also convert new WAV vehicles. We buy newly converted WAVs from two major converters, so we have the experience and knowledge to give a valid commentary contribution.
The conversion industry has little choice but to surrender to the progress within the automotive industry that it seems is not very interested in accommodating wheelchair users in electric wheelchair accessible vehicles.
The conversion industry is doing all it can to get support for wheelchair users’ access to vehicles; it is their focal point whilst still trying its best to convert what is available.
It isn’t the manufacturer’s fault, but they could do more to help.
We truly hope they listen to those who know and endeavour to accommodate the basic requirements of a complex industry dealing with often very complex customer needs.
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Need is a word so often used instead of want or vice versa. Still, in the wheelchair accessible vehicle industry, need is the keyword. Wheelchair users need transport for many reasons, but they do need transport.
Whether a wheelchair user needs transportation for an essential weekly hospital visit, respite care, education purposes, or a holiday, wheelchair users need transportation for whatever purpose they want or need.
Wheelchair-accessible electric cars do not readily provide this, and the vehicle manufacturers are being railroaded down a route that many do not agree with, dare I mention hydrogen? Well, I just did.
The WAV conversion industry is cruelly a marketplace that does not get the attention it rightly needs. You can buy an electric wheelchair accessible vehicle or eWAV. Still, those electric vehicles that can be converted are likely to be bigger, longer and taller and have lower specifications than most electric cars on the road.
The focus on small electric cars and larger electric panel vans in the race to be the biggest producer of electric vehicles is very real. Wheelchair users cannot keep up in a race they were not invited to join in the first place.
Mass produced electric WAVs
Mass production to specific marketplaces with volume needs means that electric WAVs have been widely overlooked. Is it a little late for any manufacturer to make changes that would allow a proper wheelchair accessible vehicle conversion within an electric vehicle to be completed satisfactorily?
Any WAV must work well for the wheelchair user, driver, and all seated passengers. Electric wheelchair accessible vehicles most often don’t do this well by the inflexibility of their original build.
Whilst technology advances fast in the automotive world, the world of wheelchair accessible vehicle converters can hardly feel electrified about the industry that should be trying to accommodate them and their wheelchair-user customers better.
Consider this: we are not engineers; indeed, we don’t need to be to see the problems wheelchair users face when considering transport. We need to sit down and think simply for ourselves about others and their needs in a world that frankly seems more orientated around making money at any cost in some imaginary race to the end of something.
Market share is the race, and sadly it appears that wheelchair users are not considered to be in this race or even observers of it.
Optimistic about electric vehicles
We are hugely optimistic about seeing new, different, and exciting WAVs and eWAVs. We get very vocal with our customers when we find a WAV that truly gives wheelchair users the experience they rightly deserve.
We cannot see a quick fix for environmentally friendly transport in the electric vehicle marketplace. In the meantime, fossil fuels stay in the WAV industry.
Still, we know that the conversion industry is wholeheartedly seeking alternatives to petrol and diesel and working closely with manufacturers to help them to help the WAV industry and wheelchair users.
Until at least 2030, diesel and petrol-powered WAVs will be available. Given that the automotive industry has strived to increase the diesel engine’s efficiency over the last few years, WAV seekers should consider putting their biases aside and find the right four-wheeled freedom a WAV brings to a wheelchair user’s quality of life.
After all, 2030 is a while away, which is the life of your next wheelchair accessible vehicle and, most importantly, seven years of happiness in the freedom they bring.
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