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Students challenged to design next generation electric wheelchair accessible vehicles

Mark Moran
16 December 2022
Designing a new WAV
Ian Callum CBE
Ian Callum CBE
The students
The students


A competition to find an inspiring solution from the next generation of automotive design and engineering talent has been launched by accessible vehicle provider Motability.

Motability Operations is working with design agency CALLUM to secure the future of electric wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs).

Students from Coventry University and Glasgow School of Art have been tasked with designing a prototype Electric Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (eWAV), which will provide a solution to the problems currently faced by wheelchair users looking to transition to electric vehicles.

The winning students will be given an opportunity to work at design and engineering business CALLUM on a paid placement with a team of designers and engineers led by car designer Ian Callum CBE, whose work work includes the Aston Martin Vanquish, Vantage and DB9, Jaguar F-Type, F-PACE, XJ and, most recently, the World Car of the Year Award-winning I-PACE.

The CALLUM team will bring their vision to life by producing an eWAV prototype for testing. It is hoped this prototype will inspire further eWAV innovation and allow Motability Operations to continue to provide mobility to Motability Scheme customers as we enter the era of electric motoring.

Ian Callum says: “Industrial design principles state that form follows function and at present electric vehicles are not delivering the required functionality for people with disabilities. 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.”

Adam Donfrancesco, engineering director at CALLUM, added: “Creative engineering is required to develop affordable and practical electric wheelchair accessible vehicles. An EV’s architecture is inherently problematic as the battery position is low due to its weight and centre of gravity requirements, and it cannot be easily changed. With this initiative, the support of Motability Operations and the next generation of design and engineering talent, we will seek to make the most of the internal space whilst factoring the available payload. Our aim is to find a workable solution to this complex problem; one that can be utilised by OEMs to ensure future EV mobility is accessible for all.”

Motability Operations supplies approximately 7,000 WAVs to Scheme customers each year. Most customers choose smaller WAVs as they are less cumbersome and generally cheaper to run. However, as electric vehicles 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.

Andrew Miller, chief operating officer at Motability Operations, says: “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. 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.”

Some students have already had the opportunity to submit their revolutionary eWAV designs, with over 60 students from the esteemed Coventry University’s Transport and Automotive Design programme offering solutions this November. Students from the Glasgow School of Art Product Design department will have the opportunity to submit their designs on 13 January 2022, with a winning design and its successful creator to be announced later in January 2022.

Alongside the students, Motability Operations is seeking support from its network of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) 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. The winning designer’s eWAV solution will play a part in British motoring innovation, having the potential to provide vital mobility for thousands of disabled motorists.

Cars, scooters and powered wheelchairs can be leased through the Motability Scheme, which is available to anyone who receives the Higher Rate Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance, the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment or the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement or the Armed Forces Independence Payment. Customers transfer their mobility allowance to Motability Operations to lease a car, scooter or powered wheelchair.

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Slough – Observatory House
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