CojoTruk – The Wheelchair Reinvented, and the Future of Personal Transportation Reimagined

What the heck is a “CojoTruk”?  It’s a 3-wheeled mobility device designed specifically for use by handicapped persons, which has cargo carrying capacity for grocery shopping etc. and is narrow enough to fit through most doorways.   It’s not a chair for sitting in, it’s a vehicle for neighborhood out-and-about.  It may be manually or electrically powered, or both. 

This is CojoTruk #1, built December 2019.

Short video of it being deployed, with explanation what it’s all about. 

This is CojoTruk #2, built May 2020.

Short video of it being deployed, with a description if you open it in YouTube

Once you’ve ridden a CojoTruk, from then on out you’ll hate wheelchairs every minute you’re outdoors. 

Photo by Jorge Anton Saad

The Future of Personal Transportation?

It’s not cars.  The resources don’t exist for most people to own a car.  Even in developed nations, in big cities many people don’t own a car.  There’s just no room for them.  People go short distances on foot or bicycle, and use public transportation for longer distances. 

It’s not bicycles.  For now, bicycles are mainstream personal transportation in less developed countries, and are an important part of the transportation mix some places in developed countries.  But you have to park them when you get where you’re going, and they’re just not built to carry stuff.  The trend is to motorize them to at least reduce the amount of effort needed to get somewhere especially in hilly areas. 

It’s not 2-wheeled electric scooters.  They’ve got most of the same problems as bicycles.  Plus, those small wheels are unfit for anything but the best paved surfaces.  

It’s not tricycles, electric or otherwise. At least they can carry groceries.  But they’re too big to get through many doors, and too big to navigate indoors even if you could get through the door. 

It’s not “mobility scooters”.   Most of those aren’t even legal mobility scooters.  Most are narrow and hence unstable on uneven surfaces, most the wheels are too small for irregular surfaces, most you can’t carry groceries, and most are too long to navigate indoors. 

It’s not “quads”.  Too big for indoors. Without a good suspension system they’re skittish on anything but a very flat well maintained surface.  A 4 wheeler always wants to lift one wheel off the ground.  Anyone who uses a regular wheelchair is painfully familiar with the problem — sudden loss of traction and stability.   That’s why automobiles ALWAYS have suspension on all 4 wheels.     

When the CojoTruk goes just a little beyond being a “mobility device” for handicapped people, it becomes personal transportation for hundreds of millions of people. 

The CojoTruks I built were manually powered, but that’s only because I was unable to continue the project and built a motorized one.  As with a manual wheelchair, powering it with your arms you can’t go up a 6 degree grade except for a very short distance, and even on the level you’ll eventually develop orthopedic problems.  CojoTruks need to be electric. 

Fortunately, lightweight DC motors have made huge advances in the last several years, driven by market demand for electric bicycles and scooters.  The motors themselves as well as the electric stuff needed to make them work have become relatively low cost commodity items.  Drivetrains are beginning to follow suit.  Even the stodgy wheelchair and mobility scooter markets are catching on.   Innovation is rampant and prices are falling fast. 

In the USA, there are two basic categories of interest to a CojoTruk developer.  A “mobility device” is designed specifically for handicapped people, electrically powered, must be rated no greater than 1 horsepower (approximately 750 watts), may not go more than 8 miles per hour (14 kph), and cannot have more than one forward gear.  It’s not regarded as a “motor vehicle”:  it can go anywhere a pedestrian is allowed to go, same as a person in a manual wheelchair.  An “electric bicycle” (including trikes) max weight is 100 pounds (45 kilos), max speed is 20 mph, and it may not be used on sidewalks.  

These categories seem so different, that it never occurred to the folks who wrote the regs that a single vehicle might be both things.  If a mobility device  weighed less than 100 pounds and had an operating mode switch so you could hit the motor(s) with twice as much volts and half as much amps to do 16 mph on the street, it’d be an electric bike.  Is there any law that says a handicapped person is forbidden to operate an electric bike?  Nope.   A CojoTruk can be both a mobility device and an electric bicycle.  Is there any law that says only handicapped people are allowed to use wheelchairs?  Nope.  The thing just went mainstream.  It’s not just for “cojos” any more.   …….   When I finished building CojoTruk #1, I rode it to the apartment office to pay the rent.  The landlady’s first reaction was “I want one!”  (She’d seen how fast it was, and assumed it was electric.)  

A CojoTruk needs to be capable of being transported in a passenger vehicle.  Most wheelchairs and mobility scooters are cleverly hinged so they fold up compactly.  And can then be lifted into the trunk of a car, if you’re strong enough.  All those mechanicals pretty much preclude being able to have a decent cargo compartment under the seat.  So folding is the wrong solution.  The right solution is to have it easily disassemblable into smaller pieces.  Nearly all manual wheelchairs have quick detach wheels, for example.  Lots harder to have quick detachable wheels on a motorized wheelchair (or CojoTruk) but I’m sure it can be done.  Easy enough to have the seat removable:  on CojoTruk #2, the seat was just a drop in interference fit.  Front ends can be made detachable, several ways to do that.  A design could be part detachable and part folding.  

So what’s a mainstream non-cojo Truk actually for?  Going up to about 10 miles round trip just yourself; or 10 miles one way if you have a ride back.  Many commutes and shopping trips are like that.  What about bad weather? Same as many people with a bike or motorcycle do  — dress yourself weatherproof.   ……  The price tag on a CojoTruk will probably be on the order of $1500 – $2500.  A tenth the price of a new low end compact car, and you don’t need to buy insurance.  The electricity required to recharge will cost something, but nothing like the cost for gas to make the same trip.

CojoTruk has been recognized in Rock West Composites’ Quaranvent Design Competition.