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Mobility crossover.

If you're tired of having your wheelchair-accessible driving choices mainly limited to minivans, then you'll be happy to know there's a new option on the horizon.

Say hello to the Mobility Crossover Vehicle (MXV), BraunAbility's first SUV wheelchair conversion. Expected to be released later this summer, the MXV is built using a front-wheel drive Ford Explorer.

"We wanted to provide more choices for wheelchair users," says Bill Newton, Senior Product Manager for BraunAbility. "We know that there's a demand out there for people who want to drive a vehicle that matches their personal image, that matches their style better."

It's no secret users want an alternative to minivans. Newton says he experienced wheelchair users' wishes for more choices firsthand.

"I was a territory sales rep for three years, so I got a lot of exposure to users," Newton says. "I got to see the desire to have something different than a minivan to drive."

Four Patented Designs

So if the industry knew buyers wanted something other than minivans, why is this summer the first time BraunAbility will offer an SUV? There's a good reason--SUV conversions are hard to achieve.

"The reason SUVs are difficult to convert, and why everybody doesn't convert them like they do minivans, is that they have a shorter floor plan," Newton says. "We have to do certain things to expand and take advantage of the available room."

BraunAbility engineered four patented design elements that together create enough interior room, door width and front seat space to accommodate wheelchairs in the Explorer.

In order to get a wheelchair in the SUV, BraunAbility created two innovations. First, it made a glide-out door which works with a swinging hinge, similar to a minivan.

BraunAbility also re-engineered the structural pillar between the front and back doors, to make it narrower. These innovations created a door width of just over 28 inches.

On the interior, BraunAbility created space behind the driver and passenger seats by making a cutout of sorts that allows 4 to 6 inches of extra room at wheelchair footrest level. This cutout creates a usable floor space of 86 inches long by 65 inches wide, with an interior height of 56 1/8 inches.

In the front seat positions, it made a shifter that can actually slide more than 3 inches either to the left or right. This creates a wider space and more room for a wheelchair user in either the driver or passenger position.

Side Entry Ramp

The MXV has other, more recognizable features. It has a passenger-side entry conversion with an in-the-floor automatic ramp and kneeling system. BraunAbility included an automatic LED light under the ramp that comes on when the ramp is in use.

The door and ramp are activated using the factory key fob. The ramp itself is 28 1/8 inches wide and has an incline of 8 1/2 degrees. The interior threshold has a slightly less steep incline, which should minimize what is sometimes called the "speedbump effect" found at the top of many in-the-floor ramps.

The MXV has a third row of seats that can fold down for a different configuration. With those seats up, it fits up to five people (four with a wheelchair in one of the front seat positions).

The driver and front passenger seats are both removable for users who want wheelchairs in those positions. Transfer seats are also available, and BraunAbility is working with B&D Independence to install transfer seats upon request.

The MXV is expected to get similar mileage to the Explorer without a conversion, which is approximately 20 mph (combined city and highway driving).

It does have a towing option, and while testing hasn't been completed yet, BraunAbility expects the towing capacity to be 5,000 pounds. This is far greater than minivans, which roughly have a 3,500-pound towing capacity.

Check It Out

Although it's not on the market just yet, there are several ways for you to look over the MXV now.

You can check out the MXV at braunability.com or you might be able to catch a glimpse of one of the preproduction vehicles traveling around the country. Additionally, BraunAbility is sponsoring Life Rolls On's "Get On Board Tour," which includes an early version of the MXV.

You can also contact your local dealer, as some are planning on hosting open houses featuring the MXV as the vehicle is being rolled out.

Regardless of when and how you get a look at the MXV, the folks at BraunAbility are looking forward to hearing what you think.

"I'm excited to get it to market so users can drive something that matches their personal image of being rugged and athletic and cool to drive," Newton says. "I'm excited and I hope the users are equally excited to get in and get a chance to drive one of these."

For more information, visit braunability.com/wheelchair-accessible-suv.

Paula M. Larson is a freelance writer and retired wildlife biologist living in Tacoma, Wash.
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Title Annotation:innovations
Author:Larson, Paula M.
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Jul 1, 2015
Words:831
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