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.

Press Release

BMW of North America, the Official Mobility Partner of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), today announced its plans to develop a new racing wheelchair for use by athletes of the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field Team in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The latest endeavor marks the fourth vehicle technology transfer project developed by BMW as part of its six-year partnership with Team USA, and in support of its long-standing, global commitment to performance-driven sports.

As with the development of its previous technology projects for Team USA, BMW has enlisted world-class designers from Designworks, its global creative consultancy headquartered in California, to collaborate with the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field team in identifying and addressing the need for potential improvements in the team’s equipment – namely the racing wheelchair. Although still in its infancy, the wheelchair’s significant improvements will include a complete redesign of its chassis, application of BMW’s signature aerodynamic efficiencies, enhanced athlete restraint, carbon fiber durability, as well as steering and braking advancements.

“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,” said Trudy Hardy, Vice President, Marketing, BMW of North America. “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.”

Nearly one year in development, the wheelchair is slated to be delivered to U.S. Paralympics track and field elite racers in early 2016. In the months ahead, BMW will continue working closely with athletes and coaches to integrate further enhancements and refinements as needed.

This announcement most recently follows BMW’s delivery of a two-man bobsled which helped Team USA overcome a 62-year medal drought at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Each of these projects ladders up to BMW’s larger commitment to advancing the training and performance goals of the athletes of Team USA as part of a sponsorship that extends through the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. To learn more about BMW’s partnership with the USOC and National Governing Bodies USA Bobsled & Skeleton, USA Swimming, USA Track & Field and U.S. Paralympics track and field visit www.bmwusanews.com.

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