While everyone’s talking about the strides Tesla and Terra are making in transportation, there are plenty of startups working on electric vehicles, too. One of these innovative companies is Japan’s Whill, which makes an e-wheelchair that promises to be the next big thing in personal mobility. This week, Whill raised $1 million in funding from 500 Startups, Itochu Technology Ventures, Sunbridge Global Ventures, Wingle and various angel investors. 500 Startups’ Dave McClure also threw in some of his own capital.
Whill has created some working prototypes and is in the process of mass-producing 50 of the Whill Type-A machines. According to Startup-Dating, those will ship in the U.S. market in early 2014. The team is based in Tokyo and San Francisco.
The Type-A’s seat doesn’t seem ample enough for those with a physical disability, so the Japanese startup is marketing it as a personal mobility EV. It has a range of 20 kilometers on one charge, which is more than enough for a slow-moving vehicle like this. It can charge in under two hours. But the Whill Type-A weighs in at a hefty 35 kilograms.
There is also a Whill Concept (pictured above) which takes just the robotic part of the vehicle — the bit that looks like a giant Beats Audio headphone set — and attaches it to a conventional non-powered wheelchair.
Whill’s co-founders are engineers who previously worked at major Japanese companies such as Nissan, Sony and Olympus. Having first unveiled drawings of the prototype back in 2011, the team is now a lot closer to mass production with this new funding round.
Check out demo videos for the Whill Type-A and the wheelchair add-on concept:
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This article originally published at Tech in Asia