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Updated:  10-Jan-11


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Lithium Ion Batteries for Powerchairs and Scooters.

Lithium based batteries offer HUGE advantages in powerchairs and scooters and are available right now.   Powerchair Charging Methods

ADDED >>> HERE -  NEW!  MY lithium powered powerchair.  Times have changed!!!  Lead is dead...

The limiting factors on Powerchair and Scooter such as range, size, and speed is all because the traditional Lead Acid Deep Cycle that has traditionally been used

It is the weak link in the chain. Faster or smaller lighter powerchairs are not possible using lead acid technology. That's the thing that stops 8 or 12 mph powerchairs having any decent range or power with a heavy adult. And the thing that makes powerchairs so big and heavy. spec sheet here

This is one battery manufacturer of many. The future is already here and powerchair manufacturers are not using it.

Much like 25 years of Ni-Cad battery technology, or Nickel Metal Hydride. They just keep doing whet they did every year.

Powerchairs still use mostly brushed motors when brushless technology with much  improved efficiency has been around for 20 years for e.g.  No pressure to move on.. They have things too easy.

These batteries above are Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries.  They cure that power/weight problem and have been available for a year or two now.

The Group 24 sized ones for e.g. as used in most full sized powerchairs, are only half the weight, offer double the range, have a much lower self discharge rate, and can be discharged thousands of times down to 100 percent rated capacity. Compared to the traditional lead based batteries that the powerchair manufacturers fit as standard. They are not cheap. But last much longer so mostly offsetting the additional cost.

So apart from doubling your range and making faster higher performance powerchairs and scooters they could also last about 4 times longer in service.

And they can be charged using your existing stock wheelchair multi stage charger amazingly! They can also be fast charged if you prefer at very fast rates. 

Unlike the Lithium Polymer batteries that I use in my T-Rex 500 Radio Controlled helicopter, or the lithium Ion batteries in my laptop these new batteries are intrinsically safe to use. That's pretty important in a wheelchair where you are sat on top of them!

My "hobby" helicopter Lithium Polymer batteries can burn or explode if overcharged. Quite violently. Bad idea in a powerchair!

These new Lithium Phosphate ones cannot. What's more the voltages are extremely similar to our trusty old lead based batteries. So you can use them directly.

In other words they are a kind of straight swap! I cant get hold of a set yet, since I would need to buy large numbers of them but I have tested a smaller capacity (same voltage) Lithium Phosphate packs for voltage compatibility with my Penny and Giles Wheelchair Controllers.   BCI Battery Sizes, Group 22, 24, 34, 27

Everything works fine from freshly charged down to fully discharged other than the battery meter/fuel gauge reads a little screwy! Which was expected of course.

That could easily be fixed by a tiny bit of programming work at the manufacturers end of things. Or for now just ignore it. It works and works well contrary to what you may read elsewhere on an a supposed "experts" site.

There is a guy in China using a stock Invacare Arrow Powerchair that emails me often that does wheelchair "mileage" marathons. 

He made his own packs up from the same type of cells (lithium phosphate) and gets 90km real world usage per charge easily. He uses ping batteries packs from eBay! (Google it!)

Now as usual I am going to be doing what the manufacturer or powerchairs and scooters should be doing and will be going lithium powered! My own better designed powerchair is here and I am ordering a bunch of 24v batteries (Lithium Ion Phosphate) from this guy http://www.pingbattery.com/servlet/the-24V-LiFePO4-Battery-Packs/Categories

Its quite possible to connect a bunch of those 24v packs of cells together in parallel to give me a much bigger capacity battery then the standard group 24 lead acid ones currently occupying that battery space! 

That will give me all the advantages of the green lithium batteries batteries in the image above. I would just buy a set of those but they will only sell in bulk!  Same problem the guy in china had.  Then I can fit faster motors, have better range as well as longer battery life!

If I were a manufacturer it would be a different matter. They could supply those in new chairs today (and a year ago) and offer replacements as they have the buying power.

But instead as usual we get excuses about "development" and controller problems and differing voltages. And comments about how long it will all take... Its just a smoke screen.  Its not cheap but it works great right now.

ADDING a bunch of these connected together in series is something you can do at home and get the same benefits today until I can find a reseller of the green ones in small quantities.

Its safe technology and works with existing scooter and powerchair controllers right now (with an inaccurate "fuel gauge")  This is because the state of charge is measured by sensing battery voltage off load. This isn't exactly the same with this chemistry, and it starts slightly higher, and drops slightly lower when discharged. So just ignore it! You will have much more range and greater "usable" range anyway since they can be discharged lower than lead acid batteries.

Should you be thinking of building a "pack" from these which is perfectly practical here are the standard powerchair battery sizes in detail!  BCI Battery Sizes, Group 22, 24, 34, 27

For charging these new LiFePO4 batteries (and cell balancing etc) I use this charger

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