Electric Power Wheelchairs: An Introduction

pridepowerchairThe electric wheelchair is today very popular and has been around since the early 1950′s. Early electric wheelchairs simply used the frame of a manual wheelchair and added an electric motor to it. Unlike manual wheelchairs, which require a great deal of upper body strength to use, electric wheelchairs require virtually no effort on the part of the user. They are also often referred to as power chairs or electric power chairs.

Today, some models are still available that use a traditional manual wheelchair design, but most make use of a molded plastic base, which contains the electric motor. One or more batteries is also contained in the base of the electric wheelchair, which allows it to be used over great distances.

The range and top speed of an electric wheelchair varies by model, but most are able to at least travel 5 miles on a single charge and at speeds of around 4 mph. The weight capacity of electric wheelchairs varies by model, but 250 pounds is almost an industry standard.

The chair of the electric wheelchair in some regards resembles an office chair, with a high back and armrests on either side. It includes a good deal of padding and can be reclined. It also usually swivels to the left or right, allowing for the power chair to be exited in a safe manner. The chair, which is often called the Captain’s Chair, usually has foldable armrests to further facilitate smooth transfers into and out of the chair. Some even have an electrical lifting system, which raises and lowers the chair. This can be important if, for example, using a table that is higher than normal.

Electric Wheelchair Control Systems

Most power chairs use a joystick control that is mounted to the armrest of the chair. This design is the same used on the first electric wheelchairs and can be configured for use on the left or right side of the power chair. There are also a number of alternate controls available for those who are not able to operate the joystick.

Perhaps the most common alternate wheelchair control allows the wheelchair to be controlled by the users breath. Blowing into the wheelchair moves it forward and breathing in moves it backwards. The direction of the wheelchair can also be controlled. There are a number of other alternate controls, including a remote control that can be operated by a caretaker.

Portable Power Chairs

portablepowerchairIf you want to transport a traditional power chair, it is usually necessary to use a wheelchair lift. However, portable power chairs are available, which are lightweight and can be folded to take up less space. These models closely resemble a manual wheelchair, with a steel or aluminum frame and cloth seat. However, they still weigh a great deal more than a manual wheelchair would.

The motor and battery is installed under the seat and while these units often do not have as far of a range as other power chairs, they are easier to transport.