I personally have to use a wheelchair to get around. While that is fine in and around the apartment I live in but can become very arduous when traveling 8 or 10 blocks or more. Note that I am 69 years old. Unfortunately electric wheelchairs are very expensive (over $10K) which got me thinking on a solution. I am developing a 3 way clutch along with a motor and drive. The design is a retrofit at the moment but could be built into new wheelchairs.
There are times when I don't want the electrical assist and times when I don't. My solution is to adapt a 3 way clutch to the wheel chair with 3 options. Each of the three options are selected with a knob on the outside of the hub. The knob rotates to select the option the user desires. The first option is "wheel release" which allows the user to remove the wheels from the chair without any tools. The second option is "Freewheel" which allows the user to move the wheelchair like a normal manual chair. The third option is "electric drive" inwhich the electric motors engage with the wheels and drive the wheelchair.
As stated earlier the system is being designed as a retrofit that will fit my specific wheelchair but there will be special attachment plates for other wheelchair brands. The kit will also come with a joystick controller, electric motor driver and trays to hold the batteries. The joystick will allow the user to move forward/backward, turn left/turn right at various speeds. The result is a lightweight foldable wheelchair without having to buy a new heavy non-folding wheelchair that is difficult to transport.
The key is the 3 way hub that is part of the wheel and provides the user with options on the mode of movement. The hub is low cost, simple to use. The expensive parts are the motors which is currently being investigated to bring the cost down by 50% or more. Due to the simple operation of the joystick and limited commands the electronic motor drive will be inexpensive. The end result will be an electric wheelchair for a fraction of the cost of current electric wheelchairs available today with an option to use it manually if desired.