BMW Preps Racing Wheelchair for U.S. Paralympics Track and Field Athletes
High-end racing wheelchairs are seriously high-tech devices. Shaped like miniature Top Fuel dragsters powered by arms instead of methanol, they use cutting-edge materials and technology for the sole purpose of getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Now BMW North America is contributing its technological expertise for the design of a new racing wheelchair to be used by Team USA at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rid de Janeiro, Brazil.
Developed in conjunction with Designworks in California, the new racing chair will be built around a redesigned chassis that uses advanced carbon-fiber construction. The German company has also applied its aerodynamic expertise to the project, resulting in a sleek, minimalist shape. Athlete restraint, braking and steering systems will also be improved.
The high-tech wheelchair has been in development for about a year and will be delivered to Team USA athletes in early 2016. Until then, BMW and Designworks will work closely with coaches and athletes on fine-tuning the wheelchair in preparation for competition.
BMW’s recent track record for developing equipment for United States Olympic competition has been pretty good. You might remember BMW also helped develop the bobsleds used by Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Driver Steve Holcomb and brakeman Steve Langdon used one to end the United State’s 62-year Olympic bobsled medal drought when they won bronze in the two-man event.
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Why it matters
BMW has been championing the wider use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics in its road cars, so contributing its expertise to the U.S. Paralympic Team is a great way to demonstrate its lightweight and rigid virtues in front of a wider audience. And, it’s just cool. The company is working hard to democratize the use of carbon fiber by developing cheaper, more efficient manufacturing techniques. Several current models use the stuff, including the 2015 BMW i3, 2015 BMW i8, 2016 BMW M3 and 2015 BMW M4, with many more on the way.