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EVs For Everyone — Not Just The Able Bodied!

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Sometimes we forget that many people have difficulty accessing vehicles and need specific modifications to allow them to do so. Not only does the vehicle need to be adapted, but also the charging infrastructure in the case of an electric vehicle. There are many different needs. This is the story of a dedicated husband who made sure that the electric vehicle driving experience is as pleasurable for his disabled wife as it is for him. Phil previously adapted his Hyundai Kona to make it easier for Gwen to travel with him. Phil set out to demonstrate that EVs are for everyone.

Gwen has a genetic disorder, myotonic dystrophy, and needs modifications to her environment to make life easier. Sadly, it is degenerative. “Myotonic dystrophy is characterized by progressive muscle wasting and weakness. People with this disorder often have prolonged muscle contractions (myotonia) and are not able to relax certain muscles after use.” Not only has Phil made daily living easier, he has enabled Gwen to go on long EV trips with him. Gwen and Phil recently attended the Rockhampton and Gladstone EV events and showed their modified Tesla Model Y to hundreds of curious locals. The questions weren’t just the usual ones about charging and battery life but also about access and comfort. In Gladstone, Gwen was able to relax in the car watching the fire on her Tesla screen.

EV's are for everyone

Gwen relaxing in front of the fire. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

Phil demonstrated his newly acquired Harmar lifts hoist. This can be fitted to the rear of the car to make it easy to load and unload Gwen’s Mobi scooter (electric of course). Phil tells me that they will get 15–20 lifts out of a battery charge with the AL 065 Universal Lifter. The hoist can be easily assembled on site for use loading and unloading the Mobi Scooter from the vehicle.

Teslas are fitted with an electronic circuit breaker, so Phil had to get a hoist with its own power supply. It comes with its own battery. Harmar lifts are approved by the Australian government. The hoist is being paid for by “My Aged Care.”

EV's are for everyone

Harmar hoist in action. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

When it arrived, the hoist had to be modified to fit in the boot of the Y. Phil thinks it might have been simpler if the workshop modifying the hoist had built it from scratch. Phil is able to use a handheld remote to lift the mobi scooter. Otengi Engineering  was able to complete the work, ready for installation.

From their website: “Otengi works with clients to design solutions for their needs. Years of practical experience enable us to quickly assess client’s ideas or propose new designs that are suitable and economical. Complex designs are developed and 3D modelled for fabrication.

“Complex solutions may need to evolve from a prototype over several iterations. We are able to manage the complete process to get the best product for your needs.

“Our tradesmen are multi-skilled in working with wood, metal, plastics and composites. Capabilities include CNC milling, turning, MIG and TIG welding. Low voltage electric actuators, motors and digital control.

“The Otengi team includes an electronics engineer, a fitter and turner with 3D printing skills and is led by Alan Crawford, a retired aircraft engineer. Otengi’s involvement in the hoist modification showed that they believe EV’s are for everyone.

“Phil has also had have also had a power point fitted in the frunk so they can use a mini fridge. Phil had to cut a window in the side of the frunk and install a fan to stop the fridge overheating. But now, they can help themselves to cool drinks as they answer the myriad questions that an EV owner has to field in a regional city. Including “How long does it take to charge it? Where do you charge it? How far can you go on a charge?”

EVs are for everyone

Fridge in frunk. Photo courtesy of Phil Blank.

Majella fielded questions from older residents about exactly what could fit into the back of a Tesla Model 3. We have a daughter who needs mobility aids and have discovered that although a wheelchair will fold down into the boot, the walker will not fit. She then walked the gentleman down to Phil’s Model Y and showed him that his mobility aides would fit easily in a Y. He then queried Phil about his hoist and explored options with him.

One simple device that Phil has found is a multipurpose handle. This tool fits into the door frame and allows a person to lever themselves out of the vehicle. It also has a cutting edge to be used on the seatbelt, should someone become trapped. On eBay, it goes by the longwinded name of “Car Safety Hammer Elderly Disability Standing Aid Car Door Handy Bar Support.”

EVs are for everyone

Handle and safety tool. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

Some of my correspondents on Facebook have had difficulty getting their EVs modified. Here is an example from New Zealand:
“We didn’t find it easy, local car modification places wouldn’t touch our Atto 3. The Atto had too much of a lip on the boot and no room under the boot to install it. We still got an Atto 3 because we love it and my husband drives it and is able to help me.
So we have given up trying to get a hoist fitted to the BYD and my husband lifts my wheelchair into the car. I have an ICE Kia Sportage fitted with a hoist.

“I would have liked this fitted in our Atto 3 but it has proven impossible. I need my power chair inside the car because of the weather in Dunedin. Honestly it’s not the easiest to operate and only possible because I am able to stand for a few moments.”

Another correspondent sent me a video of a Tesla fitted with hand controls. You can view it here. With a bit of ingenuity and perseverance, we can make the electric vehicle driving experience comfortable and inclusive. Having Phil and Gwen at the electric vehicle events in Rockhampton and Gladstone allowed us to show that electric vehicles can be inclusive – they are indeed, for everyone. In the words of Otengi — to enable people to live life the way they want.

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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