Published on February 15th, 2014 | by Sandy Dechert


Subcompact EV Hatchback For Drivers In Wheelchairs

February 15th, 2014 by  

Originally published on Planetsave.

President Obama meets with Kenguru CEO Stacy ZoernPresident Obama meets with Kenguru CEO Stacy Zoern (photo:

More than three million Americans can celebrate when they hear this story. Made in the USA but in demand worldwide, the Kenguru—a driver-only electric vehicle with no seats—promises mobility-challenged people unprecedented access to the everyday world the rest of us take for granted.

Imagine you can’t jump into a car quickly when it is raining, are unable to ride a bike, and most public transportation is not accessible to you. Transportation is a huge obstacle for people who use wheelchairs. It is often time-consuming, physically difficult, expensive, or just unavailable. This results in a disconnect from the community, an inability to work, and a lower quality of life…. Can you imagine having to depend on someone every time you wanted to leave your house?

The design of the Kenguru (Hungarian for “kangaroo” and pronounced the same) allows mobility-limited people to drive a car solely from their wheelchairs. The alternative, outfitting a van for wheelchair accessibility, costs over three times as much as the Kenguru price tag of $25,000—and that’s without zero-emission EV or vocational rehab incentives. Short neighborhood trips to places like a convenience store, park, or nearby mall are the Kenguru’s specialty. It’s over a foot shorter than the smart fortwo.

Kenguru subcompact hatchback handlebar model for drivers in wheelchairs

The Kenguru allows drivers to get into the car and drive without leaving the wheelchair. To enter the vehicle, the driver pushes a button and remotely opens the back (only) door. (No room for passengers.) A ramp comes down. Wheel the chair in and drive the car. Lock it when you stop. Kenguru dashboardThe current model has motorcycle bars for handling and is designed for manual wheelchair-users like people with MS, who have upper body strength. A joystick-steering model is in development for people who use electric wheelchairs. Says one of the company founders:

“It basically extends the range of a wheelchair. Me, I can go maybe a mile in my chair out in the elements. Now I can go 20 miles and be protected from the rain and the sun. It’s not a car—it’s an expansion of your independence.

Istvan Kissaroslaki, a Hungarian-born, American-educated veteran of the European auto industry and a company specializing in handicapped mobility equipment, developed the Kenguru. The collapse of Lehman Brothers blindsided his venture before manufacturing could start. Enter Stacy Zoern, a lawyer from Pflugerville, Texas, who has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic neuromuscular disorder. Zoern has never walked. Together, they started small-scale production in Pflugerville and then formed Community Cars, based in Austin.

Thirty investors and $4 million later, they put the first Kengurus on the road.


The Kenguru performs in traffic

maximum speed: 28 mph
range: about 60 miles
slope tolerance: up to 20% gradients

all-electric, battery-powered
two 2-kW motors on rear axle
charging time: 8 hours
LED lights

frame: steel
body: fiberglass laminate
interior: vinyl and molded plastic

Kenguru driver entering vehiclelength: about 7 feet (83.6 in)
width: 5+ feet (63.8 in)
height: 5 feet (60 in)
weight with batteries: 900-1200 lb
shell weight: 772 lb

According to PVA magazine, “The Kenguru has received a positive and strong response at trade shows around the world.” Community Cars has logged about six hundred orders so far.

The pitch is simple and alluring:

The KENGURU® gives you the independence you have been looking for! Whether it is commuting to and from work, visiting family and relatives, or just meeting up with some friends to have fun, the KENGURU® will help you to do it on your own.

Kissaroslaki and Zoern are aiming for 400 vehicles in the first year of production and 2,500 a year from then on. NW Autos says three potential dealers have been established in the United States, all of them in Florida, as well as one each in Britain, France, Germany, and Spain. The company is just setting up its own website and is still seeking investments and contributions, from $25 to $50,000 and more, for further development of the joystick model and other tweaks.

Entering Kenguru at handicapped pkg site

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • We believe they had to use some kind of large vehicle, whether that’s a pickup truck or van or something larger.

  • sheri barton

    This is the neatest idea I’ve ever seen I would Love to have one I not wheel chair bound but my problems are are. Gettinng worse even since last year 6618096760

  • Gwennedd

    This is wonderful!! Imagine the amount of independence this gives a wheelchair bound person! In Canada our buses are mandated to have space and access for wheelchairs, but its still a hassle getting on and off. These cars give a person complete autonomy in where and when they can go shopping or whatever. Why does the US seem not to have wheelchair access on public transportation?
    Agreed that the government should foot the bill for those unable to afford one.

  • SirSparks

    Marvelous, and the government should pay up to 100% for those that cannot afford them.

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