Solutions for Self-Reliance

DIY Food Resilience: Turning a Wheelchair in a P-Machine


Here’s a little bit of DIY ingenuity that I thought was worth sharing with you, because it’s both useful and something I haven’t seen before at less than industrial scale.

Given how useful it looks, it may become a commonly seen item in many resilient communities (at least in mine, since I have a good relationship with my back).

What is it?   It’s a self propelled, solar powered gardening cart that I found on Build-it-Solar (via NoTech magazine).

Randy, the inventor of the vehicle had a problem (an itch in tinkering parlance).   It was something that almost everyone over 30 would agree with:

I really Love gardening but I have a bad back and when it comes to staying bent over in the garden it gets rough. So I built this Helper Machine. I  call it My P-Machine. Planting/Picking/Pulling weeds/Putting around the garden machine

Here’s what he built (how he scratched that itch):

You can instantly see how useful this cart would be in reducing the difficulty of maintaining a large garden.  You can also see how valuable this cart would be in a community garden or as an amenity that’s part of a housing complex garden allotment or community supported agriculture (where the owners can reserve it’s use online).

What does it do?  Besides saving the backs of aging gardeners that want to eat well, here are some details:

  • The top speed is a walk.
  • It can turn on a dime.
  • Joystick control (like a wheelchair) that can be easily moved.

Here are some engineering details on the cart for those that are interested:

  • Simple 1″ tubing (1/8″ thick) for the frame.  Welding + bender.
  • Drive motors + harness were removed from a powered wheelchair.
  • Geared 4.6 to 1 to produce lots of torque.
  • 4x T105 6-Volt Golf Cart batteries hooked up in series for 24 v.
  • 2x 12-Volt 80 Watt solar panels in series keep the batteries charged via a 20 amp 24 volt charge controller.

If you build one of these.  Let me know.  I’d love to see the pictures.


John Robb

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