For the 165,000 Palestinians in Hebron, a city in the West Bank, getting around is a major issue. The landscape is peppered with Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks, and, according to the Washington Post, restrictions on Palestinians moving around the city have had a grave impact on its economy. For Mahmod Mojahed, 65, chronic pain in his legs made mobility even more difficult. Mojahed refused to accept his fate, however, and decided to take destiny into his own hands.
“I worked my whole life in Hebron as a pharmacist, but in 2006, my legs betrayed me. Doctors in Ramallah tried to help, but the end result was that I could no longer work. I was suddenly poor, locked up at home in the al-Jalade suburb with five children, no job and no pension. Sometimes I felt like I was in prison. Life is difficult for everyone in Hebron, but for disabled people there are no facilities and services, and no one to take care of you.
“I have always taken pride in being able to build things – inventing gives me a boost. You might even say it’s what recharged me. So I decided to build a car, not just to change my life, but the lives of other disabled people, too.
“Everyone in the West Bank travels in cars or taxis. Traffic is chaotic, and the air can become unbreathable. By making my car electric, I hoped to fix this problem. Also, I started building just after the Second Intifada 3, when we experienced what it’s like to live without oil. Of course, Palestinians have trouble traveling because of the military occupation, and for that – unfortunately – my invention is not a solution.
I was offered US$25,000 for my prototype, but I refused. I want to produce my car myself, not sell it to the firstcomer.
Mahmod Mojahed, 65, West Bank
“The model for my car is an old photograph I once saw of Italian military trucks in Libya. The driving seat can fit two people next to each other, and there’s a space in the back where I’ve put a reservoir for tea and two shelves for cigarettes. If my design doesn’t go into production, I can turn it into a little shop.
“Right now I’m working to put solar panels on the car’s roof. It doesn’t look hard to do, and I want to make the car more economical. In poor countries there’s no lack of sun, at least.”
Four essentials for building an electric wheelchair:
For inspiration, you can’t go far wrong with the vehicle Mojahed probably had in mind as a model for his machine: the OM Autocarretta 32. This Italian truck was introduced in 1931 to replace mule trains used to transport goods in the mountains of northern Italy, but it really found its niche in the Libyan Desert.
Eighty-eight batteries power the car, each of them costing a hefty 20 shekels (US$5.70). And the stress doesn’t stop with the price. Whenever you take your car outside you’ll likely suffer from “range anxiety,” the fear – common among electric-car drivers – that, due to a lack of recharging infrastructure, your vehicle will not have sufficient power to reach its destination.
Wait until no one’s looking, take two matching metal vases from the windowsill and throw the flowers away. These are perfect vessels for the headlights of your car. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Transportation, illegal vehicles are the cause of most traffic accidents in the West Bank, and Hebron has over 14,000 of them. Some headlights might help keep you safe.
Mojahed got the shine on his wheels by using the best trays from his wife’s tableware as hubcaps. You might want to choose something less valuable: according to the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, an Australian car-insurance provider, hubcaps are among the most popular items stolen from cars worldwide, along with wheels, stereos and bags.