Although they offer increased mobility to the disabled, most electric wheelchairs are only useful on flat, even, surfaces. The new HexHog - a six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle devised by a Welsh engineer - is completely different, offering its users a unique off-road experience and an unprecedented degree of independence. Jim Drury saw it in action.
This is the HexHog, an all terrain vehicle designed to give unprecedented freedom to the disabled. Powered by lithium battery, its six independently rotating wheels and unique flexible chassis allows drivers to conquer the most difficult conditions. Welsh designer Sion Pierce says the chassis enables all six wheels to stay in contact with the surface below, offering disabled users safety and stability. SOUNDBITE (English) SION PIERCE, DESIGNER OF HEX-HOG ELECTRIC ALL TERRAIN VEHICLE (ATV), SAYING: "The best way I'd describe it is almost like a centipede-like grip over surfaces, so like a centipede all its legs clamber over all the various aspects of the rocks or caverns or ditches you go through." Pierce teamed up with Da Vinci Mobility, whose managing director Vince Ross lost the use of his legs 40 years ago in a car accident. Ross says the HexHog's seat transfer mechanism is crucial. Other off-road wheelchairs require another person's help to get into the driver's seat, whereas the HexHog allows him to do this alone. SOUNDBITE (English) VINCE ROSS, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF DA VINCI MOBILITY, SAYING: "It's an amazing piece of kit. It'll go places that you wouldn't expect to go, certainly in a wheelchair and quite often difficult places to get to anyway." Ross says the HexHog is also easy to drive. SOUNDBITE (English) VINCE ROSS, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF DA VINCI MOBILITY, SAYING: "Anybody that's driven a regular powered wheelchair has got the same control as that. It's got a joystick you push forward to go forwards, backwards to go backwards, left to go left, right to go right and you've got little boost buttons so you've got standard speed and then if you need a bit more power, a bit of acceleration, you hit the boost button." The HexHog weighs 275 kilograms and its battery allows up to 12 miles travel. Charging it up takes around two-and-a-half hours. Four feet wide, it can be transported using a small trailer. But its most impressive statistic is its ability to navigate a 50 percent gradient, aided by its tight turning circle. Pierce says it can cope with almost any conditions. SOUNDBITE (English) SION PIERCE, DESIGNER OF HEX-HOG ELECTRIC ALL TERRAIN VEHICLE (ATV), SAYING: "I think a lot of the time you will struggle to find terrain that the machine can't cope with, and that's the challenge really, finding somewhere where it can't go." Launched recently, the vehicle costs a cool 30,000 dollars. Pierce says he's received world-wide interest. It's allowing Vince Ross to navigate the kind of conditions that defeat many able-bodied people. And as one of Britain's leading mobility vehicle experts, he's sure the HexHog will make a big splash. UPSOT: WATER SPLASHING