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Powerchairs and Speed!
As a "Full Time" all day
every day Powerchair User you just want more speed!
Lets face it we all do!
But its not always a good thing. Here's why:
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Many Powerchairs are offered in a variety of
So called "Speed Packages. Chairs like the Quickie
Groove, Pride Mobility's Quantum Rehab Powerchairs, or Bounder wheelchairs all
offer slow 4 mph, 5 mph, 6, 8, and above "speed packages".
So why wouldn't you simply choose the fastest
one you can get - (money or "insurance" permitting)?
Well its basically down to physics, and battery
capability. To go faster requires "more power". Power Wheelchairs have a finite
amount of this...
With current battery technology at an affordable price that means
that we are stuck with the standard "group 24" 70ah approx Gel or AGM lead based
batteries on price alone.
And size too. Why? Because to keep a sensibly low seat
height, and compact overall dimensions on the powerchair to allow good indoor
abilities, its the biggest batteries that can be fitted in! So the amount of
"fuel" on board is "fixed".
Now Physics tells us that to go twice as fast
requires double the "gearing" and requires 4x the energy! Horrible physics
Most heavy (busy) full time grown adult powerchair users
genuinely struggle to complete a full days use with a 6mph powerchair. I know I
do. But I have a few solutions too! (later) Some people who THINK they are
heavy users manage all day powerchair use fine with the same 6mph powerchair.
Which just proves they are wrong!
Any slower than 6 mph would be plain dangerous crossing busy
junctions etc, but would save battery power and increase range. But who
wants a 4mph or 5 mph chair?
If you chose the 8 mph version of your
powerchair instead then you can expect to suffer around 20 to 30 percent less
range than the 6 mph variant.
In other words I would run out of power on a busy day by about 5
pm! Yet in my 6 mph powerchair I can make the whole day and go to the pub in the
evening as well.
another factor that comes into play here too.
Most 6mph powerchairs barely have
enough torque (power) to properly climb thresholds, steep ramps etc with full
control and authority. When you choose a faster powerchair, you also sacrifice
about 20 percent of your available torque (power) generally speaking as well -
making this worse still.
And you sacrifice some control
capability and some acceleration.
You decrease the expensive battery
service life too. Because the one thing that "wears out" your precious batteries
fast is being discharged! The deeper they are discharged the greater the
"damage". Even deep cycle batteries only have a few hundred (300 approx)
cycles in them at high discharge levels caused by higher speeds and the taller
gear ratio required to do this.
What's the point of having 8 mph
powerchairs then? (*Or even the 12 mph Bounder wheelchairs)
For some users they may be a great idea! For e.g. if you weigh
say 7 stone rather than 17 stone the loss of range, and loss of torque would be
a non issue. If you ACCEPT that it will have less torque, but never really need
to do steep ramps, or never exceed the all day range of your 6 mph powerchair
then it may also be OK for you. Everything is a compromise.
*The bounder gets away with its even higher
speed because it is huge and can accept bigger group 27 sized batteries. But the
compromise here is one of size and indoor capability, and its still a little
borderline on torque...
So which do you choose?
Heavy fully grown adult? Live in a hilly area? Want lots of
range? Need better torque and control on ramps, or thresholds? Expect long
battery service life? Then get the 6 mph version of your chosen powerchair with 4
pole motors and the biggest control system available for it if there's a choice.
Lightweight? Small frame? Ballerina? Live somewhere smooth?
Don't do big distances? THEN get the 8 mph version! For you there will be
For people that are in between then you need to think
carefully about which compromise is best for you. I always finish up with 6 mph
powerchairs personally because I like the power and I am heavy! And
BECAUSE I have a chair that can go off road, in snow, on the beach as well as
indoors then the 6 mph option is my best compromise...
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