`Go anywhere’ vehicle unlocks rural pursuits for wheelchair users

With a top speed of 13km/h, room for one, and a price tag of £8,800, it will never make it onto Top Gear. But for anyone confined to a wheelchair, the Rural Pursuits Vehicle – due to roll off the production line in York next month – will provide independent off-road transport around the countryside. […]

With a top speed of 13km/h, room for one, and a price tag of £8,800, it will never make it onto Top Gear. But for anyone confined to a wheelchair, the Rural Pursuits Vehicle – due to roll off the production line in York next month – will provide independent off-road transport around the countryside.

It promises to open up a whole range of country pursuits to the disabled, from hunting, shooting and fishing to bird watching, painting and spectator sports.

The RPV’s articulated chassis and 1.3m by 1.8m wheelbase make it virtually impossible to turn over. And the hydraulic four-wheel drive and low-pressure knobbly tyres, powered by an 11bhp Honda lawnmower engine, enable it to go virtually anywhere along riverbanks, tracks and across fields.

The vehicle was originally designed by two Staffordshire farmers to help one of them, who was disabled, to get around the farm. It has now been developed under licence by York-based TJ Frazier, a firm better known for its self-propelled crop sprayers.

The RPV features a patented loading system in which the front end is hydraulically lowered to the ground. This allows a wheelchair to be reversed up onto the RPV’s platform and locked into place before being raised to the driving position. The open-front design allows the driver complete freedom to fish or shoot without getting out.

To steer, the front and rear ends of the welded steel chassis are hydraulically pushed left or right about a central pivot. A second, longitudinal pivot allows the front and rear sections to follow the ground independently, keeping all four wheels firmly on the ground.

Control is via a joystick which contains an electro-hydraulic proportional valve. This controls oil flow to a hydraulic motor on each wheel, doing away with the need for gears and transmission. The further forward the stick goes, the faster the RPV goes. Pulling it backwards puts the vehicle into reverse, and moving it left or right will activate the steering.

Future options for the RPV could include infra-red remote control for loading it onto a trailer and an automatic levelling system for parking on uneven ground.

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