Cairo Students Design Solar-Powered Car to Empower the Disabled

A solar-powered car could help people with mobility issues travel longer distances cheaply and quickly, allowing them to move around cities with far more independence than an electric wheelchair can allow.


May 21 2019, Updated 3:53 p.m. ET

At Cairo’s Helwan University, a group of mechanical engineering students have begun working on a solar-powered car that they believe could be a huge benefit to the disabled. The vehicle would allow for people with mobility issues to travel long distances unassisted. Vanguard reports that the project’s team leader, Ahmed Adel Labib, explained that the group decided on their project based on observations of electric and manual wheelchairs and their limitations in the city.

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“We started to look at what’s available on the market and what the country is doing for them and we found that there are electric wheelchairs or manual wheelchairs. But these chairs don’t allow people to go long distances; you cannot use them to go from Masr El Gedida to Nasr City or from Nasr City to Maadi. They cannot cross long distances. So we decided to make them a three-wheeled car. They can go long distances with it. They would not need anybody to help them drive it or to stop it and if they need to stop it there is an emergency system that they can work manually. Its speed reaches 55 kilometres per hour, this is a very good speed in Egypt especially.” 

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It was important to the students to keep the costs of the vehicle relatively low, which is why they installed solar panels in the car's roof, which recharges its electric battery. It runs on only three wheels and is controlled via a remote. The vehicle is equipped with an emergency system in case of technical failure or if the driver requires assistance. 

Team member Ghofran Sayyed told reporters that it was important to them to build something that would open up the world to people who are limited by the layout of where they live, and kept in isolation because of their inability to circulate freely.

“These people are unable to move, they only have the option between a normal chair and a manual wheelchair and their speed is very slow. They are not able to interact with society, it’s a struggle that they face that might affect them because they cannot interact with society. You have to make something like this so they can go to their jobs or other places far away for errands,” said Sayyed.

The group has raised about 28,000 Egyptian pounds, or a little less than $1,600 to finish their prototype from various foundations in the area, in order to see if they can build something with mass market potential. That's a very low price point for an invention that could potential change people's lives all over the world—and without even burning fossil fuels.

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