A natural gas taxi equipped for wheelchairs gets $50 million

An Indiana manufacturing plant switches from churning out Hummers to compressed natural gas vans. The Vehicle Production Group's CNG MV-1 will hold wheelchairs but not gasoline.
Written by Melissa Mahony, Contributor

The AM General plant has churned out a lot H2 Hummers in its time. Unsurprisingly, sales have been slow for these vehicles that only get around 10 miles-per-gallon. But soon the Indiana plant will begin manufacturing a fleet of vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.

Better yet? The vehicles are wheelchair-accessible. And to boot? The more than 80 workers who recently lost their jobs at the plant will get them back.

On Thursday, the Department of Energy finalized a $50 million loan to the Vehicle Production Group, which makes the MV-1. The van's design, according to the Florida-based company, centered around its ability to accommodate wheelchairs. The six-passenger vehicle can hold two chairs, which climb an access ramp that withstands up to 1,200 pounds.

Dave Schembri, Vehicle Production Group CEO, recently told Florida Trend:

This is a market that has been woefully underserved. With some 4 million full-time wheelchair users in the U.S. alone, plus another 14 million Americans with severe mobility issues, the market includes individual consumers, taxicab companies, government paratransit services and limousine companies.

In addition to giving people with disabilities a cleaner-burning option for transportation, the DOE hopes the MV-1 will give an economic boost to its assembly workers, part suppliers, producers and salespersons.

The MV-1's Ford 4.6L V8 engine can be configured to take either gasoline or compressed natural gas fuel. Using compressed natural gas, the vehicle's estimated range is 290 miles.

Related on SmartPlanet:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards