Electric-assisted handcycle prototype proposed as low-cost wheelchair in Bangladesh

Researchers design a solar-powered vehicle as a possible upgrade of the widespread manual wheelchair.
solar-powered vehicle in Bangladesh

Researchers at BRAC University in Bangladesh have developed a three-wheeled, solar-powered vehicle driven by hand-turned handles instead of foot pedals. Research team professor, Doctor AKM Abdul Malek Azad, who belongs to a humanitarian technology organisation, delivered the vehicle prototype to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed so that it can be adapted as an electric-assisted wheelchair.

The driver rotates the handles, which are connected to a chain ring on the front wheel, to set the vehicle in motion. The handcycle includes a compact electric motor beneath the seat so that little force is required from the driver to propel the bike. A portable solar charger kit, featuring solar panels, batteries and a charge controller, charges the motor’s battery.

The fact that the tricycle can operate off-the-grid with solar energy means that it does not have to depend on the country’s mostly unreliable electricity networks.

Now it is up to the centre to test the vehicle as a wheelchair for the next six months. Feedback from users combined with the findings of the centre’s medical officers and engineers will create a solid foundation on which to design and develop a low-cost electric wheelchair for people living with disabilities in Bangladesh’s underserved or low-income communities.

Doctor AKM Abdul Malek Azad emphasises disabled individuals’ need for an easy-to-operate electric-assisted vehicle in his country:

“Considering the difficulty which the disabled people experience every day to manoeuvre existing manual wheelchairs, it is a dire need to build up electric wheelchairs for the disabled people.” 

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