The Future of the Wheelchair

I love when I get a chance to hear a story behind a product, especially when the story is extremely inspiring and heartfelt. And when it involves carbon fiber, well that doesn’t hurt either.

The story I heard firsthand is from Andrew Slorance, who was paralyzed at the age of 14 after falling from a tree and breaking his back.  Andrew explains,

“Going out in public for the first time as a wheelchair user was a very challenging experience. I felt disabled, not because I was paralyzed, but because the wheelchair I was given was more disabling than enabling. As a young boy this medical device engulfed me and represented who I was to those around me”

It was then that Andrew began thinking of ways to essentially upgrade the wheelchair as we know it, from a medical device to something of a desirable technology. And with 20 plus years of wheelchair driving experience, Andrew was just the guy for the task.

Andrew chose carbon fiber as the material he would use. Not only for its obvious beauty but for its lightweight and super strong qualities as well. And he would call it ‘Carbon Black’.

Carbon Black carbon fiber wheelchair

Carbon Black would be built around an ultra compact carbon fiber monocoque, allowing for easier transportation and portability. It rides with 28 inch carbon rims which are said to offer unparalleled energy efficiency. There are also LED lights built-in to help the user with night use. The design allows for a much easier way in and out of the chair, along with easier car transfer. “With Carbon Black a user can travel longer distances and ascend slopes they otherwise might not with a conventional wheelchair. The current prototype weighs 8kg /17.6lb all included, the production chair is expected to be at least two lbs lighter,” stated Andrew.  Our quick research shows that an average wheelchair is about 30 pounds, so we’re talking about shaving half the weight.

Carbon Black carbon fiber wheelchair

He continued, “My hope is that those newly injured in accident or war may be empowered and embrace their life ahead. Carbon Black will represent them in a positive stylish light and enhance their abilities. The chair itself will break boundaries and be a focus of positive discussion and social integration”.

Carbon Black carbon fiber wheelchair

Andrew himself has been utilizing the Carbon Black prototype and says he could never go back to using a conventional wheelchair. The Carbon Black is due to go on sale in Europe by the end of 2012 and hopefully in the US shortly after. Each chair is manufactured made to measure per customer which increases the price even more.  Carbon Black will cost anywhere between $10,000 – $13,000.

Carbon Black carbon fiber wheelchair

What a wonderful way to to show carbon fibers unique abilities, its not too often a material can seriously help a person’s confidence and pride. Awesome work Andrew and best of luck! To keep up with Andrew and the Carbon Black, be sure to register on his site.

Thanks to Jonathan for sending in the tip.