the only thing like it in Lehigh Acres and even the state of
Florida and Linda Carter, a member of LACPC, a member of the
community policing committee of Weed and Seed, executive
director of No Person left Behind in the county and active in
other organizations, is telling everyone who'll listen about her
solar-powered scooter that is used to get around Lehigh.
Due to back injuries while serving in Vietnam
and complications from a heart condition and Diabetes, Carter
can only get around using a power scooter when out of the house
and for several years now has been dreaming of the day when
someone could take the scooter and turn it into a solar machine
so the scooter runs on power from the sun.
"That's free stuff," Carter said. "You don't
have to pay for that power."
And with the new battery and canopy that takes
rays from sunshine and turns them into electricity, Carter can
even be self-sufficient when and if a hurricane or other
disaster should strike.
"The solar batteries can also be used to provide
electricity to light up lamps and to charge my cell phone, which
also doubles as a GPS device so that when Carter is moving about
Lehigh, there is no chance of getting lost.
The power scooter that Carter uses is around six
years old. It's a Craftomatic and over the past six years,
Carter said after traveling 10 miles, the battery goes dead.
Now with the solar gathering screen and new
battery that sits under Carter's seat, the scooter can travel
almost an unlimited amount of time and the battery has plenty of
The other day, Carter left the house on Homer
Street near Lehigh Senior High School and drove all the way up
to Lee Blvd., Homestead Rd., and places in between doing errands
and testing the scooter and Carter had nothing but praise.
"I've driven this scooter 18 miles already and
the power in the battery is still at 95 percent high ... and I
have another five-mile trip home.
"What's great about my power scooter now is that
the batter constantly is in charge mode.
I can charge it under any type of lighting
inside and while it is outside, it is always charging.
You can't beat that," Carter said.
Now Carter's goal is to drive the scooter from
the Bay Pines Veterans Hospital to Tallahassee "to show others
who are disabled that you can be self-sufficient."
"They're my wheels," Carter said. With the new
solar powered device, Carter said dependence on Mary Carter, a
life partner, doesn't have to always take me to places, knowing
that the old battery would not put out enough power to get back
Carter, who likes to be known around the
community as Ms Carter, said she first heard of a man in Bonita
who owns Gulf City Solar, who installed glass solar panels atop
golf carts to make them run longer than old batteries would
"I got in touch with William Heckenstaller and
asked if he could do something for my power scooter. That was
last August and he worked with me to make it happen," Carter
"But instead of glass, he used a plastic device
as a solar panel with strips that absorb the energy from the
sun," Carter said.
The whole job cost around $2,500 to make the
change," Carter said. Working together to spread the word,
Carter is now trying to get the word out to others who depend on
power scooters to get around.
"It took several months for him to transfer the
power scooter into a solar-powered unit. The wiring all had to
be redone and the job became more than just making a few simple
changes," Carter said.
The battery is about 14 by 14 inches and is
located under the seat of the scooter. There is a controller
box, something like a modem that Carter says is the brains that
converts solar power into electricity that is stored in the
Carter, who is on 50 percent military
disability, also has Diabetes and some heart problems and has
suffered a couple of strokes over the past few months. But she
doesn't let that keep her home. As soon as the doctor says go,
Carter's back on the street or sidewalks of Lehigh, attending
meetings, and running errands.
The solar panel is made so it can snap off and
fold up when traveling in a van.
"I like to say to people that it makes power
while using power and knowing that you are not going to run out
of battery power, well that gives you a whole lot of feelings of
self-sufficiency, that you don't always have to depend on
someone to come and get you and load up the power scooter to
take home to charge it up again.
"It's like those carts in Wal-Mart ... so many
times you can't get one because they are plugged into the wall
getting a charge. Well if they had this type of device, they
would never have to recharge them because the lights from the
ceiling will provide the power to keep the battery full of
electricity," Carter said.
"There's only one like this in the whole U.S.,"
Carter said. The gentleman who made the makeover to the scooter
has four patents on the materials, Carter said. "We've found out
that by using plastic instead of glass for the solar panels
makes it easier to maintain. For one thing, is is much lighter
than having glass over your head and it is also safer if there
should be an accident," Carter said.
Ever since Carter has been forced to get around
in a power chair, there is "one bothersome thing." And that's
the absence of sidewalks in Lehigh.
"I travel wherever I can on sidewalks and when
they disappear, I travel on the side of the roadway or street,"
Carter said. I travel the same way as traffic goes. You'll find
sidewalk in some places and then they disappear and it's on the
other side of the street in some areas.
"I don't go back and forth across the street
because of the danger of someone hitting me," Carter said. The
power chair travels around 5 miles per hour.
Carter can't wait for her and Mary to show their
grandchildren the new power chair. They have two grown
daughters. One is married and one is not, Carter said.
"The grandkids would really like this scooter,"