Power Wheelchair Batteries: Understanding How the Battery Works

Understanding how the batteries work is important if you are a power wheelchair user. Power wheelchair batteries do have to be replaced occasionally, so understanding how they work will make selecting the correct replacement for your chair much easier. The wheelchair plays a very important role in the performance of your wheelchair.

There are 3 important components of power wheelchair batteries namely capacity, current rating and cell type.

Capacity

Capacity is how long the battery can function and is expressed in ampere-hours (Ah). If an electric wheelchair runs at 10 amperes, a typical deep-cycle lead-acid battery has about 30 to 90 Ah, which means it can run continuously for 3 to nine hours. This is good since most people don’t use their wheelchair continuously.

Current

Current is the rate of electron flow and is expressed in amperes (A). The higher the amperes the better the wheelchair will perform over uneven terrain and obstacles.

Battery Type

The cell type refers to if the battery is wet or gel celled the two main types of battery cells for wheelchairs. While either can be used to power a wheelchair, some manufacturers recommend gel-cells because of maintenance and environmental issues associated with wet-cell batteries.

Wet-Cell Batteries

Despite having those issues, wet-cell batteries often have a bigger capacity, can supply more electrical power, and generally are less expensive compared to gel-cells. As a result, they are nevertheless the battery pack of choice for most users. Wet-cell batteries come in sealed or vented types.

Vented wet cells have to be maintained by adding water occasionally. For someone who is disabled adding water to a wet cell battery can be dangerous since they will be exposed to acid every time the cell is opened. Serious chemical burns can occur or corrosive damage can result if spilled on the wheelchair.

Sealed wet-cell batteries are fully enclosed, therefore there is no water level to maintain. Serious harm can still occur if the battery leaks.

Since both types of wet-cell batteries have chemicals, they are prohibited from airplanes.

Gel-Cell Batteries

Gel-cell lead-acid batteries are designed to me maintenance free and there is no chance of chemicals spilling. These types of batteries are allowed on airplanes. Gel-cell batteries are more expensive and have about 10-20% less capacity compared to wet-cell batteries.

When buying a new power wheelchair battery, make sure you have the correct charger for the given battery. Using the incorrect battery charger can permanently damage the battery. Wheelchair batteries are “deep cycle” batteries, which mean they have to be fully discharged before recharging. Most batteries can be recharged as much as 300 times before they lose holding power capacity.

These tips will help you make the right decision when replacing your power wheelchair battery and ensure your wheelchair is in optimal condition.

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