Clamp On WHILL Temporarily Gives Manual Wheelchairs Electric Drive

It might look like a monstrous set of headphones, but the WHILL is actually an electric drivetrain designed to clamp onto manually powered wheelchairs, temporarily giving them a powered boost when longer distances have to be traveled.

The prototype—which was recently demonstrated at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show—features a round hub on either side that attaches to the inside rims of the wheelchair's wheels. Each hub houses a 24 volt electric motor powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that's good for about 19 miles before requiring a two hour charge.

With a top speed of just over 12 mph the wheelchair is steered by the rider simply leaning in the direction they want to go. The force is detected by the connecting arch which then independently adjusts the speeds of the drive motors accordingly. The WHILL is still in the prototype phase at this point, but its creators are looking for wheelchair users to test it out so they can further refine its design before turning it into a commercial product. [WHILL via Gizmag]

Photos courtesy Gizmag