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Khadija Jallouli’s dream is to make electric vehicles that come in a kit for people with reduced mobility

06.03.2020

Khadija Jallouli has relied on a wheelchair since the age of 10. In 2016, she founded HawKar, a company whose goal is to make self-assembly electrical vehicles for the disabled.

During her youth, Khadija Jallouli traveled across her native Tunisia with her father, a hotel director. But day-to-day life has always been a challenge for this young woman, who has been wheelchair-bound since the age of 10. Today her desire is to have more freedom and autonomy. But that’s easier said than done in a world where public transportation and infrastructure are woefully unadapted to people with reduced mobility. “Getting around has always been a problem,” says the calm-voiced 28-year-old.“I always needed someone to accompany me, either my parents or a taxi. After I finished school, this dependency weighed on me even more. It was a nuisance having to permanently rely on others. ”

Promoting the freedom and autonomy of the disabled

When she graduated in 2015, Khadija set out to find a vehicle suited for people with wheelchairs. She gave up, however, once she realized how expensive they were and how difficult it was to import one. A friend of hers then suggested she design her own vehicle. She immediately took up the idea, even though it was light-years away from her degree in food processing. She lucked out in finding an engineer capable of designing her electric car in the person of Seiffedine Aïssa. A mechatronics engineer and car lover who heads a club for electric vehicle enthusiasts, Seiffedine spends a lot of his free time designing prototypes. He and Khadija teamed up as business partners and founded the start-up HawKar in early 2016. The play on words contained in this name is obvious to Khadija who, in addition to Arabic, speaks French, English, Italian and Spanish: “A hawk is a bird that is free and autonomous, that can fly anywhere.And the verb “to hawk” means to disseminate, which is exactly what we want to do.Our goal is to make mobility accessible to everyone and to improve the day-to-day lives of disabled people. ”

A vehicle adapted to all physical disabilities

Financially and technically supported since 2017 by onboard electronic systems developer ACTIA, HawKar wants to differentiate itself from the competition by making a car that is adapted to the wheelchair, and not the opposite. Wheelchair-bound users access the driver’s seat by entering the rear of the vehicle. The accelerator-braking unit is manual and can be placed on the right or the left depending on the person’s handicap. To facilitate and assist with driving, the car is equipped with a removable tablet with GPS, a backup camera and a host of external sensors. “Our vehicle will be adapted to all types of disabilities,” says Khadija. “Paraplegics and hemiplegics will be able to use it.And hopefully, one day, quadriplegics as well. The idea is to enable people in wheelchairs to become fully autonomous.”

Compact and electric to make life easier

Convenience is the watchword for the HawKar vehicle, which sports the look of a Smart car. To facilitate parking, the company has chosen a compact design. The car can be parked perpendicular to the curb so users can roll out directly onto the sidewalk.

HawKar has also chosen to go electric, a decision motivated not only by environmental concerns. “It simplifies life for drivers who would otherwise have difficulty fueling up on their own or dealing with maintenance issues,” says Khadija. “Here, all they need to do is charge it.” The vehicle will even have a ready-to-assemble chassis, “kind of like an Ikea car”. Users can assemble the car themselves or have a garage do it.

Although the car “doesn’t yet have a name,” the beta version is up and running and has already been tested. Khadija hopes to have it commercially launched by 2022 at a price of less than €10,000. Her ambition is to “flood markets in Africa and the Middle East, the only regions that still haven’t developed vehicles for people in wheelchairs.” In the meantime, the young Tunisian entrepreneur dreams about her project even when she sleeps.

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