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Student-built wheelchair runs indefinitely on solar power

By

June 6, 2013

The University of Virginia solar-powered wheelchair

The University of Virginia solar-powered wheelchair

A solar-powered wheelchair designed by students at the University of Virginia has won first prize in a competition, Change My Life in One Minute, to mark World Cerebral Palsy Day. Entrants to the competition were asked to come up with an innovation that could make a significant difference to a person with a disability. The solar-powered wheelchair can run continuously powered only by the sun.

Apparently inspired by the folding roofs of convertible cars, students fitted a wheelchair with a custom-built 1-sq m (11-sq ft) solar panel which the team of students claims allows the wheelchair to travel indefinitely at 1 mph without drawing power from the battery.

At 5 mph, the wheelchair can run for 4.5 hours, which the students say is a range increase of 40 percent. They also point out that the panel brings the added benefit of providing shade to the user. The wheelchair is also fitted with USB ports for the charging of electronic newfangledom.

The team takes away a prize of US$20,000 which the team will use to perfect the chair, before shipping to Alper Sirvan in Turkey, who came up with the suggestion for the project. Any remaining prize money will be returned to United Cerebral Palsy.

In November 2010, inventor Haidar Taleb set out to cross the United Arab Emirates in a solar-powered wheelchair over the course of 11 days.

There's more technical info on the University of Virginia's wheelchair in the video below.

Source: University of Virginia

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
6 Comments

They just need to make it curved and sleek to fold behind seat better and not chop off the persons head while it is moving into place.

Secondly, upgrade the materials used in making the solar panel for better efficiency ratings.

yinfu99
6th June, 2013 @ 09:53 am PDT

Hats off to Haider for developing this wheel chair in 11 days !

Best Regards from Pramod

Prrmod
6th June, 2013 @ 11:46 am PDT

Congratulations are due, but it is butt-ugly! Seriously, can you imagine anybody really wanting to go 'indefinitely' at only 1 m/ph though? Like watching grass grow from the centre of the lawn, LOL. Check out the UK Daily Mail site and search for modified mobility scooters ... there's a couple of chaps that make new and fancy bodies for them, including look-alike taxies, vans, jeeps etc., even a tandem version, much more impressive to the eye.

The Skud
6th June, 2013 @ 06:43 pm PDT

Given only a couple of months, this was a great effort by the UVA students. Taking this good proof of concept design a company could easily make a more slick and efficient version that would benefit alot of people. Well Done!

MBednar
7th June, 2013 @ 11:20 am PDT

not quite my next A2B Commuter, but probably pretty close (hybrid recumbent trike?).....

Hat's off- well done.

Kwazai
7th June, 2013 @ 12:19 pm PDT

As a wheelchair user the reason that they have moved into gel cell batteries is because lead acid batteries are not allowed on wheelchairs during a flight in an airplane. This would be a great thing to have in case of emergencies in such a manner that you may remove or put it on when you wish.

Very excellent invention and I can't wait to see model 2.0

Rachael Pierson
12th June, 2013 @ 01:03 pm PDT
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