Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vehicle Production Group's MV-1 wheelchair accessible vehicle

Well I've been wanting to write about this car for some time as we have been following it since it was first shown on Leno's Garage.  First off you have to not think of this as a car as it's been built to truck specifications.  It's built ontop of a frame like a truck and not unibody.  It's been built to withstand commercial duty as a taxicab.

Well it's recent setback with Mayor Bloomberg of New York City's hyper critical comments about wheelchair users and this wheelchair vehicle not withstanding. It has soo much potential and a reasonable starting price, compared to upfit wheelchair vehicles.

As far as a consumer I have 1 problem with this vehicle and I don't understand why it is.  The EPA claims are 15MPG highway 10MPG city.  I don't understand this since it's using a modern ford powertrain which garners in the 20's in pickup trucks. I'm hoping in the near future to find out what has caused this real problem especially in todays world of ever increasing fuel prices.

Now for were this car crosses our path here at Goshen Adventures.  We recently decided we wanted to go see this car so we picked the Independence Expo in Orlando, FL as VPG's MV-1 was signed up to be there.  We travel 840 miles in our 2000 Ford E350 diesel towing our 30' travel trailer which is outfitted for a wheelchair user. Upon checking in we asked where the MV-1 was as that was going to be my first stop only to find out that they pulled out in order to have all the cars at the press conference where they gave away car #1.  This was a cool press conference but you can see not everyone was happy with it.

Now something you have to understand here is that our current vehicle the ex fleet 2000 Ford E350 Goshen Coach bus runs on diesel and is just bad as all get out and loaded with so much power it can excellerate up a mountain towing a 30 foot trailer, but it gets 8-10MPG loaded or unloaded it doesn't matter so the 15 mpg is not just 50% better as the price of gasoline is 50 cents cheaper than diesel (another sore spot with me as diesel is a less refined product then gasoline) so it's more like a 70% economy improvement for us. Not to mention the price point of $40,000.00 for the vehicle brand new is $18,000.00 less then our next favorite vehicle the Honda Element X-WAV.  We can buy a lifetimes worth of gas with that 18,000.00 don't you know.

The final thing I want to know is that this vehicle is built like a truck with truck drivetrain the V8 from the ford F150. What will it take to make this car tow my 30' trailer like the cars of similar specs did in the 70's. I've just really got to see one, and hopefully get some answers from one of their engineers sometime on this car.

Well I'm going to wrap this up here, but let me know in the comments what your favorite wheelchair vehicle is and why.

Friday, October 14, 2011

1st serious road breakdown with the Goshen Coach

I've previously discussed our 2000 Ford E350's Carrier Transicold system in some detail before.

We recently spent some time on the road with our wheelchair bus pulling a 30 foot toy hauler trailer that we have stripped out all the stuff in the "toy" area and now have an electric hospital bed and enough room to maneuver a hoyer lift around. Our target was 840 miles away in Orlando Florida at the 2011 Independence Expo.  Keep in mind that our rig is an aging ex-fleet operated rig but it has a good heart LOL

Being in a wheelchair and travelling away from home has some inherit risks.  Probably the most major one is that if you break down and need a tow you are going to be left on the side of the highway because tow trucks aren't equipped with wheelchair lifts or ramps.  With this in mind I travel with enough tools and old spare parts I can stuff on board.  Our first problem, a recurring one which is quite frustrating to diagnose, is the Braun Millenium Lift in our truck will fold/unfold/go down with no problems what so ever.  But ever so often it won't go up. Half of our trip this is how the lift acted. I jump the main relay on the lift to ground and if your not careful it will raise and fold in one motion. What bothers me about this configuration is that they are switching the ground to make it operate, which means if it shorts out it's not going to blow a fuse and be safe, it's going to raise and fold in keep on pumping! Ok so I'm digressing from what I was wanting to say.  Needless to say this problem although annoying I can overcome.

We travel to florida, make the expo, spend some time at Disney World, traded pins, trick or treated at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and head home. Our Hopped up 7.3L Powerstroke Diesel performing admirably with our 53' Truck and Trailer rig. We make it to 45 miles from home and start smelling smoke... Well I hope it's outside, but it's not going away and it's starting to burn my eyes. So here's where you get scared truck is 8 feet wide lift sticks out another 4-5 feet and it takes another 3 feet to get on/off the lift when it's on the ground so you need 14-16 feet of space for the truck and egress, the Interstate has sloping grassy area beyond the emergency parking strip on the side.  So do I stop immediately taking up the main lane at night and most likely get rear ended at 80mph? no I think not... I push on the gas and hit the next exit, blast through the red lights, and pull into a truck stop well away from the pumps and everyone else but where someone will quickly call the fire department if flames kick up after I stop.  I shut down and get Sarah in her wheelchair off the bus. Now fortunately no flames kicked up, the smoke died away after I shut the motor down, Sarah's is off the bus so I start inspecting the problem.  I open the hood and the serpentine drive belt is sheared. This is where the spare parts kick in.  I have the previous belt stowed away (the belt is a non stock at every parts store I've ever checked, meaning you break down at night and on the 2nd day if your lucky you can get one)  I install the new belt but notice what broke it, the Air Conditioner pulley is free and rattling around in the A/C clutch confines and it has a good 3/4" of play. I fire up the truck and the a/c pulley is rubbing on the bolts on the front of the compressor and throwing sparks so I shut back down. I make some calls and the closest place I can find to park our rig was 10 miles away, speculating the life of the belt I figured it would snap in route, but we could probably make it with one cooling off period, so best case belt holds, we are there in 12 minutes, worse case belt breaks and we are there in 2 hours or so. Fortunately the belt held and we were able to get our rv set back up and camp out for a few more days.  Both the compressor and the belt were non stock items at the part store, so it took us about 3 days to get back on the road and travel that last 40 miles to make it home.

Anyway, the compressor has been on about a week, I did not plug in the electrical connector to it at the time as I just really needed something that would make the drive belt function for the water pump, alternator and fan. So today I take the time to charge the system back up. the system holds:

10 - 12 oz cans of R134a

Sam's Club had R134a by the case of 12 cans for 76 bucks so I had a couple of cans to spare and still saved money vs the typical 9 bucks a can everywhere else.

It's always something to think about when your travelling with a wheelchair traveller is what to do if you get broke down away from home.