With an estimated 4-million Americans in wheelchairs and another 6-million who rely on other ambulatory aides (i.e., canes, scooters, walkers), it’s somewhat surprising that it took until September 2011 for a purpose-built vehicle for the handicapped community to be launched.
The MV-1, or “Mobility Vehicle 1,” wasn’t developed by a major automaker, but by a Miami-based start-up, the Vehicle Production Group (VPG; vpgautos.com). Unlike vehicles—typically minivans—that are converted to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, VPG says the MV-1 is the first vehicle that meets the standards from the minute it comes off the assembly line.
Its development was based on input from over 50 focus groups consisting of handicapped people and caretakers. The vehicle is designed to be easily accessible for handicapped passengers. Its ramp is 30.5-in. wide and deploys from below the floor for side passenger entry. Handicapped passengers are loaded into the vehicle through a spacious 36-in. wide, 56-in. high side access door. It has a load capacity of up to 1,200 lb, which VPG says allows it to accommodate every type of wheelchair or scooter
But the MV-1 is more than just a ramp.
The interior features 190 ft³ of space for easy wheelchair maneuverability. Floor-to-ceiling height is about 5 ft to provide adequate headroom. Wheelchairs can be secured in multiple places inside the vehicle, including the space where the front passenger seat would normally be, allowing handicapped passengers to sit where they typically can’t. In addition to the driver and wheelchair passenger, a third-row bench seat and optional jump seat can accommodate up to four other passengers.
VPG describes the MV-1 as a vehicle that’s built like a truck, but rides like a car. Like a truck, it features a body-on-frame architecture, with boxed and tubed cross members providing further rigidity. Yet it features a car-like suspension, a de Dion rear suspension, with steel-leaf springs and air shocks; the front features a short long arm (SLA) suspension and a rack-and-pinion steering gear.
The MV-1 is powered by Ford’s 4.6-liter V8 engine and equipped with a Ford four-speed automatic transmission. VPG also offers the MV-1 with a factory-installed compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling system option.
Another thing to note about the MV-1 is its MSRP, which starts at $39,950. VPG says that converted handicapped vehicles can cost upwards of $70,000.
The MV-1 is being built under contract at the AM General assembly plant in Mishawaka, IN, the facility where General Motors had the Hummer H2 built and where military HUMVEEs are still being manufactured. VPG CEO Dave Schembri says 12,000 units will be produced in 2012. He expects 30,000 to be built in 2013.—EF