ABB helps disabled boy follow his electric racing dreams

Custom-built mini electric racecar, supported by ABB, allows Polish 10-year-old with muscular dystrophy to drive at up to 80km/h.

For 10-year-old motor-racing fanatic Maksymilian Młodawski, whose muscular dystrophy confines him to an electric wheelchair, the dream of being able to control a powerful electric vehicle himself has always seemed distant.

Now, however, thanks to an innovative project undertaken by students at Warsaw University of Technology and supported by ABB, Maks is able to drive a light and fast fully adapted electric vehicle, tailored to his specific needs.

The e-MaksPower weighs just 110 kilograms, around 10 times lighter than a small electric car, and is fitted with hard suspension and aerodynamic bodywork engineered according to the same principles of dynamic efficiency as those of a full-scale race car.

But whereas a conventional vehicle is manoeuvred with a wheel and pedals, steering, accelerating and braking of the e-MaksPower are all controlled with a single joy-stick, more akin to a game controller. This allows Maks full control of the machine with only wrist movements.

The idea for the e-MaksPower was born when Maks and his father, Michał Młodawski, visited a science picnic at Poland’s National Stadium and came across an electric racing car presented by students from Warsaw University of Technology. After chatting with Maks and his dad, the students who had created the e-racer took up the challenge of developing a car tailored to Maks’ driving capabilities and worked with ABB to make the idea a reality.

“A big challenge was to adjust the vehicle control system to the range of Maks’ wrist movements,” said Łukasz Krawczuk vel Walczuk, project manager from Warsaw University of Technology. “We had to design the vehicle in such a way that the output signal was only a joystick that integrates three systems: propulsion, steering and braking.”

Several award-winning students from the scientific clubs of Warsaw University of Technology collaborated on the project, lending their expertise in robotic, electromobility and aerodynamics.

Senior technical input came from lecturers at Warsaw University of Technology, including Dr Piotr Biczel who shared his knowledge of batteries, charging, power systems and safety systems. The project was also supported by ABB as global experts in smarter mobility, with over a decade of experience in innovating, installing and maintaining e-mobility infrastructure and a mission to achieve a zero-emission reality.

A delighted Maks was presented with the vehicle during an event last week at Warsaw University of Technology, attended by representatives of all the project’s partners.

Katarzyna Sobótka-Demianowska, manager of ABB’s e-mobility business in Poland, said: “With such projects, electromobility is taking on a whole new dimension by breaking through mobility barriers and creating a more inclusive society. While the initiative has an educational focus, it more importantly has a social responsibility aspect.”

Łukasz Krawczuk vel Walczuk added: “Apart from financial support from ABB, we consulted the company on the possibility of integrating components in such a way that they could be compatible with the ABB Wallbox charger in the future. In additional to valuable financial resources, we counted on significant professional support.”

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