The modern power wheelchairs are similar structurally however the various functions available make each unit unique. How Power Wheelchairs Work Ever power wheelchair has the following 4 basic parts:
  • motor
  • battery
  • drive
  • controller
Lightweight power wheelchairs use a 2-pole motor, while the heavy duty power wheelchair uses a 4-pole motor. The 4-pole motor offers more carrying power and also allows for additional important options.

Overweight Wheelchair

Heavy-duty wheelchairs are becoming more popular because of the extra weight of some of the users. There are over 3.8 million people who weigh over 300 pounds in the US alone. These individuals at some point might require the use of a power wheelchair. Heavy duty wheelchairs require extra reinforcement to provide stability. Areas that need extra strength include the frame, wheels, suspension, engine, and battery. The most common problem with heavy duty wheelchairs is the motor, which if not design properly will fail under excess weight.

Batteries Included

Power wheelchairs use sealed lead acid batteries (SLA). They can either be wet or dry cell batteries that have an output of 4 to 5 amps. The battery can be recharged using a standard electrical outlet when the chair is not being used. Power wheelchairs are available in rear wheel drive, front wheel drive and center-wheel or four wheel drive. Rear wheel and center wheel drive wheelchairs are most effective on flat terrain. Front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive would be the better option for power wheelchairs that are going to be used outdoors.

Controlling a Power Wheelchair

Most electric wheelchairs are steered using a joystick or handle. For those who are severely disabled, other control options include head to chin controller, motion sensitive tube or even an eye-to-computer screen controller. The computer interface uses the battery power to operate. The computer also advises the user when the battery needs recharging. In addition to its primary speed and steering uses, the controller manages the tilt, the lift and recline functions.

Power vs Manual

Customizing your electric wheelchair starts with choosing a 2 or 4 pole motor then adding the appropriate accessories. Heavy-duty wheelchairs are much more durable compared to lightweight wheelchairs and they are also much more expensive. You will probably have the use the power chair for many years to come, so choose your options carefully. The biggest makers of power wheelchairs are China, Canada and Taiwan. In 2004 Canada exported $1.9 billion worth of power wheelchairs to the U.S. In 2008 that number was $4.1 billion worth of electric wheelchairs which represents a 114.1% increase.  

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