The right wheelchair for getting down to the shops on a Sunday afternoon isn't necessarily the right wheelchair for competing in the 100 metres finals at the Paralympics, which is why engineers at BMW are working on a brand new design for those competing at the 2016 event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It's still a work in progress, but as you can see from the artist's rendering above, the emphasis is going to be on speed and aerodynamics. BMW is promising a complete chassis redesign, advancements in the steering and braking technologies, a more efficient ride, better restraint design, and a more durable carbon fibre frame. The efforts are part of BMW's six-year sponsorship of the Team USA track and field athletes.
"Over the course of our partnership with Team USA, we have been committed to advancing athletic performance through technology transfer initiatives which help to address their training and equipment needs," says BMW's Trudy Hardy in a press release. "This one is special not only because it presents a unique design challenge, but it helps solve a bigger mobility challenge for our Paralympic athletes."
The super-streamlined wheelchair has already been in development for a year and is scheduled to be delivered to Team USA at the start of 2016. BMW says athletes and coaches have been heavily involved in the design process, offering feedback and advice to refine the finished product. Staff from creative consultancy Designworks have also been enlisted to help envision what a Paralympics wheelchair should look like.
As yet, there are few details about what exactly the wheelchair looks like or how it works. No doubt BMW and Team USA are keen to play their cards relatively close to their chest to give themselves the best chance of success in a year's time.
The automobile and engineering firm does have previous form in this area: BMW was responsible for designing and producing the bobsled that helped earn the US several medals in the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014. All parties will be hoping the new wheelchair chassis can have a similar impact in Rio in the summer.
The 2016 Summer Paralympics begin on 7 September after the Olympics - these will be the 15th Paralympic games to be held. A total of 526 events will be contested over the course of 11 days, including swimming, sailing, archery and the track and field athletics events where an aerodynamic wheelchair is going to be most useful.