Allied Vehicles Group has developed an innovative new solution to help disabled people get the best use out their wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV). Allied has developed a new seat that maximises access and has secured a European patent pending to protect its invention for the Peugeot HorizonTM, the UK’s best-selling WAV.
The original seat design in the base Peugeot Rifter model made it difficult to fold the adapted seats forward and gain enough space for a wheelchair user to feel comfortable. Although highly efficient and well-designed, the seat was never designed to store away for a wheelchair user.
In the face of what seemed like an impossible engineering challenge, Allied lead design engineer for this project, Greg Barnard and the engineering team worked tirelessly to find a solution that none of the company’s competitors had thought of.
The new seat design works by initially tipping the back of the seat forward and then detaching it at the floor; this then allows the seat to simply fold away as it rotates and locks in at the front of the vehicle, creating far more space for the wheelchair user. Essentially it allows the original rear seat to fold in a way that would not have been possible before, so it can be packed away in the smallest possible space and in the lowest possible position, increasing wheelchair user space and the feeling of connection with the passenger and driver in the front seats.
Design engineer Greg Barnard said: “This has been a real team effort with support from every member of the engineering team. It has been over a year of work from when we first identified the problem to the getting the ‘tip and tumble’ seat design in place and we are really happy with the results.”
The focus throughout the project has been on ensuring that people of all physical abilities can benefit from the new design. The seat is simple to fold into its stored and seated position, and assistive gas struts take the majority of the weight of the seat as it is moved into position. Five different concepts were considered before the final design was chosen as the one that created the maximum amount of space for the wheelchair user whilst minimising user involvement, complexity and cost. A real innovation was to design a substructure under the seat that would carry out all of the folding motion whilst keeping the seat safe and strong.
The final design went through various iterations that involved almost the entire design team at Allied. The pre-production department manufactured all the parts that went into the trials and crash tests. Working in-house meant that timescales could be compressed into days rather than weeks. Sales and marketing were also heavily involved in the entire process.
By securing a patent pending Allied has taken the first steps to protecting this solution and guaranteeing that the HorizonTM is the class-leading vehicle for space and occupant comfort. To secure a patent pending in Europe, the product submitted must demonstrate that it is novel, non-obvious and useful. Effectively the ‘tip and tumble’ seat design had to prove it was unlike any other design patented, a solution which has taken specific knowledge and expertise to create and a design which serves a clear purpose. The new seat design passed these three criteria and is now a design exclusive to Allied and provisionally protected from copies by the patent pending status.
Allied manufactures and re-engineers vehicles for disabled people across the UK and beyond, working with leading car makers. The company is the largest British-owned car manufacturer and supplies some 6,000 vehicles each year. The ‘tip and tumble’ innovation underlines once again how Allied’s design and engineering work is leading the way at the cutting edge of WAV construction.