A couple of years ago at the Tokyo Motor Show, we came across an interesting prototype device known as the Whill. Looking sort of like a giant pair of headphones, it could be clamped over the wheels of an existing manual wheelchair, temporarily providing it with an electric drive system. Although that particular device was never commercialized, its makers recently let us know that a product based on the technology is now about to enter production – the Whill Type-A motorized wheelchair.
Instead of being based around the concept of pressing a third-party chair into service, the Type-A was designed as a complete system.
The one-hand-operated controls are mounted in one of the two arms that sit to either side of the user. Those arms can either be left fully forward for complete control, telescoped down to allow for access to desks or tables, or pulled back and out of the way for getting in and out of the chair.
When the user does want to get in or out, the process is further facilitated by a seat that slides forward and backward relative to the rest of the chair.
All four wheels are powered, reportedly providing decent traction on slippery or uneven surfaces. The Type-A can also climb over obstructions up to three inches (7.5 cm) high, plus it can turn on the spot via independently-operating left- and right-side motors, along with front wheels that can roll both forward/backward and left/right.
One 5-hour charge of its battery pack should be good for about 15 miles (24 km) of use. The chair's top speed is 6 mph (9.6 km/h).
The Whill company is now taking pre-orders, and states that US deliveries should begin early next year. There is no word yet on price.