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---- PROTOTYPE --------- PURPOSE: To create a prototype of a wheelchair ready vehicle for individuals with mobility disabilities. Wheelchair users who, when selecting a vehicle, have their choice of minivans, and sometimes tall wagons, that have been "up-fitted" with needed equipment added and unneeded seats taken away. A South Florida-based start-up company, VPG, plans to begin offering a vehicle designed, engineered and built to be wheelchair-ready the MV-1 this fall. The MV-1's motorized ramp, which extends from the right-hand side of the car, is designed to hold up to 1,200 pounds and can go to curb or street level with a shallow enough incline to permit the user to easily wheel him or herself into the vehicle. Doors on both sides open to a full 90 degrees for easy entry. Because it was engineered to be accessible, the MV-1's suspension won't have to be modified to deal with the weight of wheelchairs and equipment, which makes for better, safer handling under a variety of loads. Ford Motor Co. supplies both the MV-1's V8 engine and its four-speed transmission. The MV-1 has a permanently affixed driver's seat. Some vehicles that have been modified for wheelchair accessibility vehicles don't, allowing someone in a wheelchair to just roll up to the steering wheel. But federal safety regulations require a built-in driver's seat in all new vehicles. The seat is power-adjustable and can allow easy access to and from a wheelchair. Having a fixed seat makes it easier for someone not in a wheelchair to do the driving. Customized hand controls for gas and brakes can be added at the customer's request. The back seats in the MV-1 are mounted far behind the driver's seat allowing plenty of room for wheelchairs to enter and park in the vehicle. There is also no front passenger seat, which leaves space for a wheelchair. (Wheelchairs are secured to mounting points inside the vehicle using seatbelt-like straps.) The MV-1 will be built at the AM General plant that had been building the Hummer H2 SUV. Prices are expected to start around $40,000, with VPG executives saying their vehicle should cost about $10,000 less than comparable "up-fitted" vehicles. TITLE: A car made for wheelchairs. WEBSITE: CNNMoney.com. REF: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2010/smallbusiness/1007/gallery.vpg_mv1_w....
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