An electric-assisted handcycle in development now could soon transport wheelchair users in Bangladesh. Similar to a tricycle, the vehicle is propelled by hand-turned handles rather than pedals. The handles are connected with a chain to a chainring (a gear) on the front wheel. An electric motor under the seat assists the work, and the battery is charged by solar panels.

Dr. AKM Abdul Malek Azad, a professor at BRAC University in Bangladesh, is involved in the handcycle research and sent us a report. Dr. Azad is a member of the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) Special Interest Group in Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT) in Bangladesh, called the CARG SIGHT. He and his team delivered their prototype to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed, where researchers will continue to improve the design.

The video below shows Dr. Valerie Anne Taylor, founder of the Centre, taking the vehicle for a test drive. Hardly any force was required to pedal the vehicle, she told Dr. Azad.

solar electric wheelchair development team

Left to right: Ataur Rahman, Sheri Jahan Chowdhury and Jaber Al Rashid, designers of the handcycle at the Control and Applications Research Centre at BRAC University in Bangladesh, show their handcycle / wheelchair and the solar panels that charge its battery. Image courtesy of AKM Abdul Malek Azad.

Dr. Azad reports:

“The developed electric wheelchair has two important features: a throttle and a torque sensor pedal. These two features enable the chair to be driven by motor both indoors and outdoors.

“The Control & Applications Research Centre (CARC) research team at BRAC University also delivered a portable solar charger kit to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed. The kit includes solar panels, batteries and a charge controller. Through the use of renewable energy, it is possible to ensure the electric wheelchair can be maneuvered freely by people with disabilities by being completely independent of the national grid. 

“For six months, the Centre will test the chair and collect feedback from users, medical officers and the Centre’s engineers. With the Centre’s guidance, newly designed and cost-effective electric wheelchairs can be manufactured for people with all types of disabilities.

“Considering the difficulty which the disabled people experience every day to maneuver existing manual wheelchairs, it is a dire need to build up electric wheelchairs for the disabled people.”

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