by Ian Ruder and Tim Gilmer, with Bob Vogel


Minimalist. Attractive. Design forward. Pretty.

Those aren’t words usually associated with power wheelchairs, but they keep popping up in conversation after conversation about the WHILL, a new “personal mobility device” designed and brought to market by a team of former auto industry designers. After five years of design and testing, a good degree of Internet fame and a successful funding campaign that resulted in $11 million, the WHILL — pronounced like “will power,” not “wheel” — is finally available to a nationwide market.

See Bob Vogel’s test results:
Test Driving the WHILL

With a low-profile frame highlighted by two white arms emerging from just in front of the rear wheels, the WHILL resembles a wheelchair that was ripped off the set of a futuristic sci-fi movie more than it does any power chair currently on the market. It is sleek. It is eye-catching. As one user told me, “It’s like the Apple of wheelchairs.”

The current version, the Model A, does not have all the features that wheelchair users with higher level spinal cord injuries would need and is not intended for medical use (meaning it’s not yet covered by insurance), but has more than a new style to excite potential users about future versions. Atop the list is an all-directional four-wheel drive system built around novel casters that allow for pin-point turn