If you get around in a wheelchair, you often find yourself depending on friends and family for the simplest errands—a trip to the doctor's office, an outing to the movies, even just picking up milk. Stacy Zoern, a former patent lawyer turned car manufacturer, has been in a wheelchair her whole life and understands what a hassle finding transportation can be.
"I’m in my thirties and my friends have to take me everywhere. Any time I’m invited to anything, the next thing is, ‘Well, can you come pick me up?’" Zoern says. "It’s like I’m 15 all over again."
Reduced to constantly groveling for rides, Zoern was on the look-out for alternatives. When she found Kenguru—a then-Hungarian made single passenger, electric vehicle—she was hooked. Here’s the catch: the car’s creators couldn’t afford to take the car to market. So Zoern gathered angel investors, purchased Kenguru’s assets and started her own manufacturing company, Community Cars, in Pflugerville, Texas.
Now, the Kenguru is in production and will be up for sale in the US market in the next 6-12 months. Priced at $25,000, with electric vehicle tax incentives and vocational, rehabilitation funding, some drivers might be able to get the car for free. It’s a cute little ride that opens in the rear so that drivers can wheel right in and lock their chairs in place. It takes about eight hours to charge the car on an at-home plug (charging stations juice it up faster). On one charge, it can go 60 miles.
It’s not quite highway ready though. Because it adheres to guidelines for low-speed electric vehicles, the Kenguru maxes out at 25 miles per hour. The current model is designed for a manual wheelchair, but the next, joystick operated model will be power wheelchair-ready—development costs for it are being crowd-funded through RocketHub.
Zoern, who uses a power chair, is still waiting for the new model to drive the Kenguru herself, but she is proud to build a vehicle that will let people find independence in their everyday lives.
"[Transportation] is a huge obstacle and it doesn’t need to be," says Zoern. "When you create a solution for that, the whole world just opens up."