“People with disabilities are a very underserved segment of the population, with huge needs”, Stacy Zoern told Entrepreneur Magazine. Zoern is the President and co-founder of the company. She also happens to live with spinal muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy.
The new car being developed by Kenguru is a small electric hatchback with no seats. Drivers access the vehicle using a rear-opening tailgate and automatic ramp, securing the wheelchair by way of an interlocking device. Instead of a steering wheel the car features motorcycle-style handlebars and the company is working on a joystick-based control option.
The car weighs a total of 1,000 lbs, measures 7 feet long and 5 feet tall. It is designed for in-town driving and can reach top speeds of 25-35 miles per hour and has an estimated battery range of 60 miles.
Zoern is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law but her job search was limited to legal firms that were within close proximity to her downtown Austin apartment. If she did want a job further away she would have to pay for special transportation and that would cut into her monthly budget.
Instead she scoured the internet for mobility options and found a company in Budapest, Hungary where Istvan Kissaroslaki was attempting to design a Kenguru (Hungarian for “Kangaroo”). However, most of Kissaroslaki’s loan was tied in with Lehman Brothers and when the bank collapsed he lost his funding.
Zoern quit her position as an intellectual-property litigator in the fall of 2011 and persuaded Kissaroslaki to relocate to Texas where the two partnered and focused on developing the Kenguru. After securing a $4 million dollar loan this past January, the two announced plans to enter production later this year.
The cars are projected to sell for around $25,000. However, federal green energy and mobility tax incentives may reduce costs for qualified buyers.
Though the project has been hard Zoern is determined to see it through.
“Every day I get emails from people who visit our website and say, ‘This is going to change my life’. That lightens my load. It’s a reminder of why I’m doing this.” Zoern says.