Group of Newton men win uphill
battle to develop more powerful motorized scooters.
Written by the Hutchinson News by John Green
NEWTON - When Lloyd Wolf’s mother started having problems
getting around, he explored buying her a motorized scooter. But he wasn’t real
happy with what the local market offered.
When he brought up the issue with a co-worker at Mid Continent
Industries of Newton, the co-worker also complained about a family member’s
inability to get certain places.
Mid Continent is a small, 15-person company that manufactures
grain cleaning and testing equipment.
But Wolf, his boss, Glenn Wells, and sons Darren and Steve,
thought maybe they could build a powered chair that would truly allow people to
go anywhere they want.
"This grain equipment is fairly seasonal," Glenn
Wells said. "We were trying to figure out something to fill in the valleys
when we hit upon this idea."
Several of them traveled to a trade show in New Orleans to see
how most motorized vehicles were being built, Wolf said.
"We didn’t think there were many scooter manufacturers
in the country," Wolf said. "Mercy, there’s bunches of them. On the
plane coming home, we thought we needed to change our way of thinking."
They decided to try tracks - like on a bulldozer or tank -
instead of wheels, to make it an all-terrain vehicle.
Thus, Trac About was born.
"Our problem was trying to find the equipment in the size
we needed with the power we needed," said Wells, who moved his company to
Newton from Sedgwick County in 1990.
"We needed a lot more power than most of them do, since
we intended to do more," Wells said. "The other big problem was
keeping the tracks on. We’ve got that pretty well whipped."
The tracking solution was accomplished with specially made
wheels and tires. The tracks are made in Indiana, Wells said. The wheels are
made at Trac About, while the solid tires are molded by a Great Bend company.
The vinyl-covered seat also is locally made, at another Newton company.
Jennifer Nabb, a member of the rehabilitation team at
Health-E-Quip in Hutchinson, said Trac About’s concept "sounds like a
good one," though she believed many of the scooters manufactured today will
run in the grass, go over curbs and even maneuver in sand or mud "as long
as you’re not talking extremes."
But an ability to handle extremes is exactly what Trac
About’s creators had in mind.
"They’re not going to tear this thing up," Wolf
said. "We’ve tried that. We’ve been all over, going through all kinds
Controlled by a joystick that can be operated with a single
finger, and powered by a 24-volt battery, Trac About’s IRV2000 features three
running modes, a zero turning radius and the ability to climb up to a 30-degree
The machine weighs about 400 pounds, which is slightly heavier
than other scooter types, Wolf said. But it will carry a 300-pound person
"through mud, snow or sand."
"There’s a lot of people out there who haven’t really
been out in the garden in a long time," Wolf said. "This will get them
there. If they have a little problem walking down to their pond, this will get
them to the pond. If someone just wants to ride it, they can ride it."
The normal running mode is the half-track, which will maneuver
smoothly over sand, grass, ruts or gravel, Wells said. The full-track mode will
move through snow or mud, keeping an individual mobile year-round. The final,
three-point mode minimizes track contact, allowing the machine to be used
indoors without scuffing floors.
IRV2000 stands for "individual recreational
vehicle," Wolf said, noting the equipment is actually classified as a
As such, the equipment is not certified by the Food and Drug
Administration for use by handicapped individuals. That means its purchase does
not qualify for medical reimbursement through Medicare or Medicaid.
"We’re not targeting the handicapped market," Wolf
said. "This is for people like Glenn’s brother, who can walk but can’t
walk very far."
Medicare-eligibility is something the company will probably
seek later, Wolf said. Patents on the design are still pending.
"We’ve kept it under wraps for almost two years,
testing it and what have you," Wolf said.
Eventually the company hopes to set up distributorships and
dealers, Wolf said, but initially they’ll market it locally through newspaper
advertising and word of mouth. They’ve also set up a Internet web page at www.tracabout.com
"We’re not interested at this moment in selling our
first one in California," Wells said. "We’d like to get it out
locally so we can learn. After we get a few more ideas from users, we can build