Disability-support company Motability Operations is partnering with design firm CALLUM to secure the future of electric wheelchair accessible vehicles (eWAVs) by hosting a competition to find an inspiring solution from the next generation of automotive design and engineering talent.
Students from Coventry University and Glasgow School of Art have been tasked with designing a prototype eWAV that will provide a solution to the problems currently faced by wheelchair users looking to make the transition to electric vehicles.
The winning students will be offered a paid placement at CALLUM. Working with the company’s team of designers and engineers, including acclaimed car designer Ian Callum CBE, they will bring their vision to life by producing an eWAV prototype for testing. It’s hoped that this prototype will inspire further eWAV innovation and allow Motability Operations to continue to provide life-changing mobility to Motability Scheme customers, as we enter the era of electric motoring.
‘Industrial design principles state that form follows function and at present, electric vehicles are not delivering the required functionality for people with disabilities,’ said Callum, design director at CALLUM. ‘It’s an issue that requires industry collaboration to overcome, so we are pleased to be working with Motability Operations, along with students from Coventry University and the Glasgow School of Art, to seek a solution to the complex packaging issue. As EV usage increases, we want to ensure that electrification doesn’t threaten disabled mobility.’
Motability Operations currently supplies about 7,000 WAVs to Motability Scheme customers each year. Most customers choose smaller WAVs because they’re less cumbersome and generally cheaper to run. However, as EVs typically have their battery located in the vehicle’s floor, offering small, electric WAVs is challenging.
Users switching to EVs face higher costs, less usable space and internal height, and lower available payloads. An innovative solution is required if the availability of practical and affordable WAVs is going to continue post-2030, when all new vehicles will be electrified.
‘As Britain’s motorists begin to make the switch to electric vehicles, Motability Operations is working hard to ensure our customers aren’t left behind,’ said Andrew Miller, CEO at Motability Operations. ‘There are many accessibility challenges we need to overcome as we transition our customers to electric, and this collaboration with CALLUM marks the latest of our innovation efforts to find a solution. WAVs provide freedom and independence for many of our Motability Scheme customers, and it’s very exciting to be working with CALLUM and Britain’s next generation of automotive designers to future-proof wheelchair-accessible motoring as we enter the electric world.’
More than 60 students from Coventry University’s Transport and Automotive Design programme have already submitted their designs, while students from the Glasgow School of Art Product Design department will have the opportunity to submit theirs on 13 January 2023. The winning design will be announced later that month.
Motability Operations is also seeking support from its network of original equipment manufacturers and convertors to help pave the way for this important concept work by providing vehicle-specific engineering insight that will improve the feasibility of the project and future rollout of eWAVs.