eVITA side view charging

Inclusive EV design: Motability Operations and CALLUM reveal next-generation electric wheelchair accessible vehicle concept

  • eVITA, an accessible and versatile electric vehicle (EV) concept, has been developed in a partnership between Motability Operations and CALLUM to demonstrate what is possible when inclusive design and engineering are at the fore
  • Motability Operations has identified that more than 34,000 users of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) in the UK could be left behind in the transition to EVs if the automotive industry does not take action and collaborate to design and manufacture inclusive vehicles
  • eVITA concept functionality has been designed alongside real customers and wheelchair users to address common concerns

London/Warwick, 20 March 2024: Motability Operations, the commercial organisation that delivers the life-changing Motability Scheme to disabled people across the UK, reveals eVITA, a next-generation electric wheelchair accessible vehicle (eWAV) concept. Designed and engineered by CALLUM, eVITA addresses the needs of passenger WAV users in the transition to small/medium electric vehicles.

The EV concept has been developed using inclusive design principles with input from Motability Scheme customers throughout. Utilising eVITA to demonstrate what is possible, Motability Operations wants to collaborate with the automotive industry to ensure inclusive design principles are considered throughout development so that wheelchair users are not left behind.

Motability Operations is supporting its 750,000 customers in the transition to EVs by highlighting challenges and finding solutions. It currently has over 34,000 WAVs on the road, with around 4,000 applications each year for small and medium WAVs. The design of today’s EVs poses challenges for eWAV conversion and accessibility for wheelchair users. Without a solution, this would lead to customers in a wheelchair having to opt for larger vehicles than they need when switching to electric.

“The transition to electric simply won’t work unless it’s accessible for all,” says Andrew Miller, chief executive of Motability Operations. “We have the largest fleet in the UK and three quarters of a million disabled customers who rely on their vehicles for their independence. Our customers aren’t the typical early EV adopters, they’re more representative of the wider population, and we know from first-hand insight what the challenges of having an EV will be for everyone. Without solutions and an equitable switch to electric, thousands of people could be left behind.”

“This is most pressing for our customers who use wheelchair accessible vehicles as they don’t have an obvious or affordable solution to transition to a smaller EV. We were determined to find a way forward and I’m absolutely delighted that we have developed the eVITA concept with CALLUM, which genuinely has accessibility and inclusivity at the heart of its design, demonstrating what is possible. We’re sharing our knowledge and understanding with the industry – manufacturers, designers and engineers – to support an EV transition that works for everyone.”

Customer clinics inform design

Through research clinics, Motability Scheme customers provided valuable insight into the common pain points and priorities for passenger WAV users when on the road. Customers were insistent that the solution should be flexible and address their access needs without compromising design form.

The CALLUM team, overseen by Ian Callum CBE and led by head of design Aleck Jones, set about creating such a vehicle, eVITA.

“Today, electric vehicles are not offering the functionality and flexibility required by WAV users,” says Ian Callum, design director at CALLUM. “OEMs, their designers and engineers must plan ahead and embrace inclusive design principles to ensure that WAV users and disabled people are not forgotten in the transition to EVs. With eVITA, form and functionality have been developed in parallel, resulting in a well-considered, user-friendly EV that is both practical and stylish.”

Battery repackaging improves travelling experience

Critical to the design of eVITA is the positioning of the battery. Its design ensures that the floor between the vehicle tailgate and front row is completely flat. This allows a wheelchair to smoothly travel from the rear ramp through the interior and be positioned nearer other occupants. With a ride height closer to that of a hatchback car, the wheelchair user has an improved lower seating position with better visibility in the cabin, which was important for many Motability Scheme customers. Having wheelchair users at a similar height to other vehicle occupants helps them to feel more connected to other passengers.

eVITA features two charging ports – one at the nearside rear and a lower front-mounted option for ease of access for all users. The vehicle’s 50kWh battery provides an anticipated range of around 200 miles.

Innovative lighting ‘reserves’ crucial access space

The cabin has two front and two rear doors, with the rear sliding doors featuring accessible release buttons. eVITA features a split tailgate – the upper section acting as an extension to the roof to keep users dry when entering and exiting in wet weather – with electronic door system for easy opening. A wide, low angle ramp automatically extends from inside, with a winch aiding wheelchair users’ entry into the vehicle cabin. The tailgate is a critical functional feature of the eWAV and an area where Scheme customers really emphasised the need for easy operation.

Additionally, customers stressed the common frustration of other motorists parking too close to the rear, making it difficult – and often impossible – to lower the access ramp when returning to their vehicle. To alert other motorists while parked, eVITA uses energy-efficient LED puddle lights to visually project onto the ground the essential space required for the extended ramp at the rear of the vehicle.

Inclusive, versatile interior

Inside, the functionality and versatility of the eWAV cabin is of the utmost priority for users. A flip seat in the rear provides flexible seating options that can be personalised to the occupants’ preferences.

A key requirement was access to all the infotainment, heating and air conditioning controls and features, as often all these are located in and only benefit those in the front of a vehicle. The solution is a modular ‘utility bar’ in the rear of eVITA that provides easy access to all these functions, ensuring the occupant has full control and independence. Fully customisable, the utility bar also includes charging ports for personal devices, and can feature hooks for hanging coats or bags, as well as easy-to-reach storage, such as cup holders.

CALLUM managing director, David Fairbairn, says: “The CALLUM team is incredibly proud to reveal eVITA and to work with Motability Operations on such an important project that has the potential to positively impact so many lives, supporting Motability Scheme customers with freedom and enjoyment of travel as society transitions to electric. Through this project we’ve leveraged our innovative design skills and engineering ingenuity within the CALLUM business to challenge the industry to be more inclusive and equitable for a more positive future.”

Motability Operations CEO, Andrew Miller, adds: “Collaboration is key to making the EV transition a success for wheelchair users; we need our partners, manufacturers and policy makers to believe in better and to work alongside us to take action. eVITA shows what can be done. We are particularly grateful to Stellantis for its enthusiasm and technical support to develop our concept.”

For more information on eVITA and the EV requirements of wheelchair users, visit www.motabilityoperations.co.uk.  

You can view video content here and download high resolution images here. 

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Notes to editors

About Motability Operations

We are the commercial company that delivers the Motability Scheme to over 700,000 disabled people and their families, helping them access independent mobility.

Since we began running the Motability Scheme 45 years ago, we have helped more than five million people get moving. People who receive higher or enhanced mobility allowance can join the scheme. They decide to use their allowance to choose from a wide range of cars, wheelchair accessible vehicles, powered wheelchairs or scooters.

Our scale and relationship with manufacturers makes sure we provide the very best technology and design.

Customers lease their vehicle for 3-5 years in a worry-free package that includes insurance, servicing, tyres and breakdown cover. At the end of the lease they can choose a brand-new vehicle and we remarket their old vehicle at the best possible price. We are the largest supplier of used cars in the UK.

We don’t pay shareholder dividends and the money we make is invested back into benefitting our customers and disabled mobility.

We pride ourselves on knowing and understanding our customers and have exceptional customer service at the heart of everything we do. We have an average of 9.6/10 customer satisfaction rating.

Press information:

For all media enquiries, interview bids, image and filming requests please contactLouise Fallon, Media and Communications Manager at Motability Operations on louisefa@motabilityoperations.co.uk or on 07818 562 836.