Thursday, March 10, 2011

Braun Entervan XT wheelchair vehicle first impressions

     With keeping up with our aging 2000 model ford E-350 plus the current price of diesel fuel and the fuel economy of driving around a mini bus it should come as no surprise we are in the market for a new wheelchair vehicle.
     Our criteria on height limits our choices plus the fact that we are spoiled with driving around such a large and spacious vehicle doesn't help matters either.  Sarah in her power chair is just short of 56 inches tall, which means that we either have to have a raised roof, or a lowered floor vehicle. You have to have a couple of inches clearance above your head or a rogue bump could end up jamming your neck up pretty good on the ceiling, so we've chosen the minimum interior height of our next vehicle should be 60 inches minimum, and at 56 inches tall the doorway needs to be right at this height to keep from having to duck when entering as this is hard to do and if you forget ramming your head in a doorway is unforgiving in a wheelchair!
     The Braun Entervan XT is the first vehicle we studied in our quest and may be one we revisit soon.  The standard Braun Entervan has a 10 inch lowered floor and can be built on 4 different manufacturers minivan chassis, but this vehicle doesn't give us the height we need.  The Braun Entervan XT has a 14 inch lowered floor with a 56 1/2 inch entryway height, and a 60 inch interior height which falls right at our minimum requirement which means it's quite suitable as our next vehicle.  The XT is only built on Dodge Chrysler mini van chassis.
     The Braun Entervan XT is well suited for wheelchair duty with automatic entry/exit ramp system.  One press of the button and the van will kneel open the door and lower unfold the ramp for you. And with the key fob remote the wheelchair driver/passenger can just just press the remote button and the vehicle will prepair itself for your reentry into your vehicle.  The major advantage of a ramp over a lift is that you can easily bridge a gap say curb parking as the ramp only touches the ground at the very end.  This is different from a lift which has to have the full platform in contact with the ground or the exit gate won't open.
     A side entry vehicle is also one of our criteria as a rear entry vehicle means you either can only be a passenger, or limits you to 1 person and 1 wheelchair if you both wish to ride up front.  There is a risk of being blocked from reentry to your vehicle if the wheelchair is a self driver by having someone parking too close to get the ramp down plus the space infront of the ramp to enter the ramp.  We run into this situation quite frequently in typical handicap parking spaces.
      As our available funding for a vehicle is not $50,000 we are assuredly in the market for a used vehicle which makes this choice more appealing as Braun has been building the XT for about 10 years meaning the availability of used vehicles is better then some of the other choices.
     One caveat I have about the Braun Entervan XT is ground clearance.  I have not been able to find out the ground clearance for this vehicle to date, but my feelings are it is something less then you would get from driving a Corvette, And does pose a minor possibility of high centering the vehicle on a steep parking lot entrance.
Braun Entervan XT's website: http://www.braunability.com/products/minivans/entervan-xt/

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