Mini Cooper Electric Gets Disability-Friendly Hand Controls

Electric Vehicles / 2 Comments

Mini believes fun electric cars should be for everyone.

For people with disabilities, the task of driving is more complicated than it needs to be. Yes, there are companies out there that specialize in outfitting vehicles for people with specific needs but it's often a costly and time-consuming process. Vans and SUVs remain popular choices because of their size, but what if you don't want to drive something large and ungainly?

Well, Mini has just the solution. The company has adapted a Cooper Electric Hardtop for these needs, which "makes zero-emission driving fun in the small car segment available to people with disabilities for the first time". Mini leaned on the expertise of Tina Schmidt-Kiendl, a wheelchair-bound driving experience instructor. As such, the BMW-owned brand fitted the battery-powered Mini with several operating aids.

Instead of a regular floor-mounted pedal, the driver now controls the vehicle with an accelerator ring on the steering wheel. The handbrake has also been replaced with a knob sited next to the tiller.

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Mini
Mini

"The design of the Mini Cooper SE is very accessible as it is. With the dual recuperation, you have full control for instant acceleration and braking," said Schmidt-Kiendl. Out on the open road, the driving instructor expressed concern over inaccessibility for people with disabilities. While driving the Mini into town will prove a cinch, other tasks associated with car ownership aren't as easy.

For example, the pavement-mounted charging points in Munich are difficult to reach for people in wheelchairs. Another issue is that the display or charging sockets are often positioned out of reach. Mini's Stefanie Wurst commented, "if we want society to be really inclusive, we have to listen to each other. We have to consider everyone's needs - especially when it comes to technical innovations."

However, positive change is afoot. Several European cities have designed electric vehicle infrastructure to be accessible to everyone. Examples include charging points that are easier to reach.

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Mini
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The accelerator ring allows the driver to operate the throttle with hand pressure. Mini has designed the shape of the accelerator to be safe and intuitive; it can be operated with both hands on the steering wheel. For parking and low-speed maneuvers, the reduced throttle setting will come in handy.

Lastly, the traditional foot pedals receive covers to prevent the driver from using them accidentally. These can, however, be removed if the car is driven by someone else or sold at a later stage. Perhaps the technology isn't as sophisticated as the Arrow Electronics Corvette C8, but anything that adds convenience to the lives of those with disabilities gets the nod of approval from us.

We're not sure if Mini has plans to introduce this in the US, but we hope it's made available. The company has been rather busy of late and recently unveiled a one-off Convertible Electric. Sadly, there are no plans to put this into production but, hopefully, we'll see a drop-top EV when the new lineup arrives in the coming years.

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