Enhancing mobility for wheelchair users
An innovative new vehicle designed to carry wheelchair users securely and quickly on public highways will soon go into serial production. Developed by the Czech machinery company ZLKL, based in Loštice in the Olomouc Region, the Elbee has also been supported by EU funds with a view to taking the prototype into production.
People using wheelchairs face a number of difficulties using a standard car, such as the need to change seats when entering or leaving the vehicle. Loading their wheelchair into the car can also be tricky.
The Elbee is an elegant solution to these challenges. It features unique hinged doors, which are remotely controlled. The lower door becomes a ramp, enabling a wheelchair user to easily roll into or out of the vehicle. After the doors close, the user can drive the vehicle whilst seated in the wheelchair.
An ‘all-terrain vehicle’
Born in 2003 as a concept vehicle, the Elbee was picked up by ZLKL in 2004 and turned into a functional prototype four years later. The vehicle is notable for its unique construction and several innovative technical parts, and received further support in 2007 from the European Regional Development Fund.
The vehicle is officially categorised as a ‘heavy all-terrain vehicle’ and has a maximum speed of 80 km/h. Compact dimensions allow for parking parallel to the pavement, so a wheelchair user can comfortably exit the vehicle directly onto the pavement rather than the road. The vehicle can accommodate one passenger at the rear. Steering and design elements may be individually customised according to the needs and wishes of individual drivers.
On target for commercial rollout
The EU support has helped move the vehicle towards production, including the purchase of technologies and the process of certification. Further work by ZLKL aims to substantially increase the vehicle’s utility attributes and reliability.
ZLKL’s research highlighted the importance for wheelchair users of independent movement without assistance. “Our efforts aim to provide mobility-impaired people with independence and freedom of movement, in order to further enhance their living standards,” says the project manager Ladislav Brázdil, Jr.
The Elbee goes into serial production in early 2013. This will initially be only for the Czech market, with international distribution coming later. The company sees the vehicle as a very practical solution for everyday movement both in cities and elsewhere, while highlighting an appealing design.
“We have got down to such a complex process as the development and production of the vehicle because it is a useful product that can positively, and sometimes even essentially, affect the lives of a large group of people who use wheelchairs,“ noted Mr Brázdil. „We assume that there will be interest in it, not only in the Czech Republic but also in other European countries”.
Total and EU funding
The project “Production of a Vehicle for Wheelchair Users” has a total eligible budget of EUR 1 500 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 637 000 through the Enterprise and Innovation Operational Programme for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.