All-terrain vehicle

Road or no road - South African-born designer Ackeem Ngwenya's innovative adaptable wheel system takes on any terrain.

Part of the Project

Ackeem Ngwenya's Roadless wheel.
Ackeem Ngwenya's Roadless wheel.

The Roadless wheel system is designer Ackeem Ngwenya’s graduate project for his studies in Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.

His design approach is to explore the scarcity of basic services and infrastructure as a playground for innovation and creativity, and apply design and technology to achieve development through creative solutions to crippling and persistent problems faced by Africa.

Ngwenya has designed a wheel that adapts to different terrain conditions typically found in rural areas like those he grew up in. The design addresses the difficulties locals experience moving goods, accessing markets and making a living.

This is based on his own first hand lived reality; as 10-year-old child, he would walk with his cousins for more than 10km carrying corn to be milled.

The wheel works on the same principle as a scissor jack that you might have in your car: as you crank the central hub up and down, the wheels expand to create more contact area for muddy conditions, or contract to give better ground clearance for rough terrains.

The wheels can be fixed to an axle and used to transport goods. Instead of laying new roads, the Roadless Project takes the absence of basic infrastructure and services as a playground for creativity and innovation. 

I am interested in projects that aim to solve problems that affect and deprive people of a decent quality of life, he says.

The Roadless project was on display at the Africa is Now exhibition at Design Indaba Expo 2014 under the Africa is Resourceful theme.