A research team at the Southern Taiwan University of Technology in Tainan County has invented a new type of solar powered wheelchair which integrates the functions of existing manual and electric wheelchairs and can be sold for a cheaper price, the university said yesterday.
Both hand-powered and electric wheelchairs on the market have their own drawbacks, with the former prone to causing muscle ache and the latter lead to a decline in cardiopulmonary function due to a lack of exercise, the sources said.
Against this backdrop, a research team in the university's Mechanical Engineering Department has tried to modify conventional wheelchairs to use solar energy.
The new invention was designed to provide renewable energy resources without worrying about power supply problem and the drawbacks of the traditional wheelchairs.
A conventional fully-powered electric wheelchair can go approximately 7km on a charge, but in contrast, a solar powered wheelchair can go 10km to 12km.
The price of a traditional electric wheelchair stands between NT$30,000 to NT$50,000, while the price of a solar powered wheelchair is likely to be priced below NT$15,000 after going into mass production.
The product won a prize in a university invention contest earlier this year. The design team has applied for a patent on the invention.
Noting that the wheelchair-using population in Taiwan is estimated at more than 100,000, the university said the innovation will be a boon to them.
A report by the Council for Economic Planning and Development said Taiwan ranked first in the world in eight categories of high-tech products last year, including electric mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs, taking 45 percent of the global market.