John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The Austrian-made "Ziesel" has tank treads and plows through snow like a nitro-fueled riding mower.
When a wheelchair has a roll bar, you know you're in for a serious ride. And the Ziesel electric mobility scooter does not disappoint: The entrance it makes in the above video has the visceral thump of Apocalypse Now's Wagner-blasting helicopters, a presence of raw fury running on canisters of undiluted shock and awe.
Der Ziesel is a battery-powered concept vehicle sold by Mattro Mobility Revolutions, a manufacturer of futuristic machines located in the Austrian city of Schwaz. Weighing in at 463 pounds and with a top speed of 22 mph – and equipped with a NASCAR-esque four-point safety belt so you don't get hurled out – it's nothing like the dinky Rascals elderly folks ride around at Walgreens. Technically it's not even correct to call it a wheelchair, as the juggernaut moves on rubberized caterpillar tracks. Think of it as more of a distant, shrunken cousin to the M1 Abrams battle tank (turret mod not available).
Mattro has been testing out the power-chair this year in a variety of natural settings. The Ziesel plowed a vineyard in Italy and dragged heavy gear over a glacier at an Austrian ski resort. While tackling Everest is an exaggeration, the e-vehicle seems perfectly at home on lesser peaks, cutting through deep snow drifts while vomiting fantails of powder. As the company writes:
The Ziesel is a pioneer for mobility by combining sustainable and environment-friendly technologies with pure outdoor fun. It is the only barrier-free sport-vehicle with electrical high-performance power for fun and freedom in nature. The Ziesel was developed for outdoor action and can be used all year round with impressive performance on almost all surfaces like: snow, sand, stone, mud, grass and more. Safety is an integral part of the concept. High quality craftsmanship and the only the best components. Guaranteed.
At roughly $24,000 for the basic model, the Ziesel's price will keep it out of many garages. But for that wad of dough you get a cabinet of features: a pair of disc motors, LED headlights, wood or carbon-fiber body accents, a heated seat, a tow bar, preset driving profiles, and an intelligent joystick to control it all. It should be noted that the chair surfing in snow above is a prototype; the engineers have since outfitted it with a "double-suspension arm chassis to provide a more comfortable ride."
Here's footage of the Ziesel during a more recent winter test drive, and this is its agricultural foray into Italy:
H/t to ETA