Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) have developed a new wheelchair that could change everything about seniors’ access to the outdoors. The The PneuChair uses pressurized canisters of air instead of batteries, making the chair significantly lighter than most wheelchairs—and completely waterproof.
The chair weighs about 120 pounds and operates on 4,500 psi. It can travel about 3 miles on a fully charged tank and takes only 10 minutes to repressurize the canisters for the next use, according to a university press release.
The chair could be a boon for senior living settings, where battery management is often a challenge, Rory Cooper, director of HERL, told R&D Magazine. “It is essentially infinitely chargeable and rechargeable without the memory problems that batteries are often plagued by. The system will last longer than most wheelchairs today.”
The pneumatic power of the chair also opens up access to activities that were never possible using traditional electronic powerchair technology, such as a trip to the beach or a wading pool. The Morgan’s Wonderland theme park in San Antonio, Texas, was one of the chair’s first customers, opening its splash park to those who use mobility chairs.