We Found A 100% Electric Wheelchair Van

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BY DAVE FINNIGAN

We love that it is the last vehicle he will ever need, that there are virtually no service or repair requirements on electric vehicles, and that there is no heavy power ramp or mechanical lift to haul around or repair.

Our 46-year-old son, Davy, has been in a wheelchair all his life, so transporting him appropriately has always been an issue. We have now found a 100% electric vehicle that works for him, and is environmentally sensible as well.

From December 2010, Ford partnered with Azure Dynamics to create a 100 percent, electric version of their gasoline powered Transit Connect mini delivery van that has sold millions since it was first introduced in the US from Europe in 2009. The electric version has a range of about 65 miles. They only sold about 500 of these sturdy minivans for $57,400 each before stopping production in March 2012, due to lack of sales.

Recently these 500 tiny trucks have begun to become available on the used market at around half of their original cost, or sometime less, probably because their owners got tired of having this range-limited vehicle that needs to sit plugged into the wall for many hours to recharge, and because a range of 65 miles is not enough for most delivery routes or for a typical service call. We got ours for $20,000, with only 5,200 miles on the odometer, basically a new vehicle at a 65 percent discount from retail

However, what businesses might see as limitations may be considered positive features and benefits for a family with a special needs member. Davy only leaves the house about once a month to go to Disney World, a doctor’s appointment, or a spring training baseball game, all within 20 miles from home. We don’t want a big van with a heavy mechanical lift for these excursions, and we don’t care that, much like Davy, the vehicle needs to rest and recharge between excursions. We love that it is the last vehicle he will ever need, that there are virtually no service or repair requirements on electric vehicles, and that there is no heavy power ramp or mechanical lift to haul around or repair. We also love that we will be able to get off of fossil fuel and recharge the batteries, using electrons from a rooftop solar array on our house. Sometime far in the future, we may need to replace the batteries but, by then, we are confident that they will have doubled or tripled in range and dropped significantly in price.

So we junked our lift-equipped Dodge Caravan and bought a pair of light-weight aluminum telescoping 10-foot channel ramps that can sit in the garage or can travel with us when Davy is in the van. We moved the tie-downs from our old van to the new. Another great feature is the high head-room so he can sit erect in the van and look forward instead of having to tilt back and stare at the ceiling.

There is only one caveat. A $295 part called the Axiomatic Wake On Charge Module has been known to fail on this vehicle. The good news is that you can easily replace it yourself. I did. We just thought other parents might want to know about this option. We’d love to network with families that find this vehicle works for them. Maybe we could even form a support group together. •
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
From 1989 through 1999 Dave and Thelma Finnigan traveled with their three children in a motor home delivering instructional juggling programs in elementary schools nationwide. In 2000 they settled down and built a home in Celebration Florida, right next to Disney World. Contact them at davefinnigan@yahoo.com

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