A VERSATILE vehicle which offers wheelchair users the ability to travel in the most demanding terrain, has been launched by a specialist manufacturing company.

The Hexhog is a highly stable machine with a six-wheel-drive transmission and flexible chassis to allow it to travel off road - all with electric power from the latest lithium ion battery technology.

It was launched in April and is a new concept, designed from the ground up to solve the problem of all terrain access for wheelchair users. Its patented flexible chassis is the key to its stability and it has ability to climb 60% slopes.

"The flexing chassis irons out the lumps and bumps for a confident journey as the machine hugs the ground like a centipede as you ride over brows and troughs," explains inventor, Sion Pierce.

"The open fronted design means riders can look towards the horizon and enjoy the journey without having to focus on the ground, looking out for that ditch or rut that could disrupt regular wheelchairs. We've had a lot of positive feedback about how much fun the Hexhog is to drive off road."

Described as an all-terrain wheelchair, it can cross moorland, farmland or even peat bogs. It can also be driven on the road with a standard car licence (with an add-on-kit) and will pass through four-foot gates.

Mr Pierce explains the inspiration behind the Hexhog: "I heard about a family of farmers going out on their land on quad bikes and how one member was left behind because he was in a wheelchair. It struck me that a true all-terrain vehicle for wheelchair users was not on the market and so set about designing one."

He developed the design over five years, building on his experience of mechanised handling and control systems to design the Hexhog.

Having grown up on a family farm in Wales, he used this land to trial his designs and now his company, Off-Road Engineering, has teamed up with Da Vinci Mobility of Liverpool to bring the Hexhog to a wider audience.

Another unique feature is its seat transfer mechanism. This lowers the seat to a position beyond the front wheels to enable independent pivot or slideboard transfers from a wheelchair.

When travelling, the seat is elevated on the chassis for the optimum driving position.

Power is from the latest lithium ion batteries which feed two pancake motors that deliver 650 N/m of torque to the wheels.

This has advanced battery monitoring, where power is measured in and out of the cells to act as an accurate fuel gauge. A fully charged battery will give a maximum range of 12 miles in optimum conditions. This type of battery can handle quick top-up charges, allowing multiple journeys in one day.

The Hexhog weighs 290kg and can be transported behind small cars with a lightweight trailer without additional trailer licencing. If required, a remote control system can be fitted for loading and unloading.

The base model costs £18,000, including the charger and 12 months warranty.