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John Williamson

All Day, Full Time, Indoor & Outdoor,  With Some Off Road Capability, Powerchairs.
Off Road capable true INDOOR/OUTDOOR Wheelchairs are almost always a compromise.

Many off road capable PowerChairs look awful, are too big, or look a bit like they were "built in a shed" quality wise. They generally do not inspire much confidence.

Detailed PowerChair Only Menu
Related pages:
Off Road ONLY (No Indoor) PowerChairs 1 2

There are several big problems / compromises with the usual Off Road or All Terrain Powerchairs that claim to be usable indoors currently available.

It pays to understand these issues when you are looking for one. It rules out most of them for me unfortunately.  The Frontier X5 is an almost an exception. Although still I can do better for my own needs which is why I built my own PowerChair rather than buying the really pretty good Frontier X5 Powerchair below.  


Most off roaders are usually too "big".

Although this is not always the case. Like my own powerchair, they CAN be made all day capable and be indoor usable too.. Which gives the best of both worlds. Perfect! So why are there not more chairs like this? Well its pretty hard to fit everything in and keep it small I guess!  But if I can do it...

As far as I know there are very few powerchairs in this class. The best ones are my own Hand built and modified and the X5 above! (quite a good design for a production powerchair)  If anyone knows otherwise let me know and I will add it/them here!

Any "REAL" full time Active Powerchair users like me really wants one Single Powerchair that can be used both indoors and out all day long and this is a big issue. I want a single "do it all" solution. Some of us cannot just hop from one chair to another and need to drive a van or get into one regularly to get about!  

That's why I was looking at the X5 above initially as it was the best solution I could find, but decided to modify one of my own powerchairs instead.  I need to be able to use it in my van, walk the dog on grass and in the woods, and use the same chair in the house and the pub or on the beach or in snow. The rest of the off road capable powerchairs are all too big and designed for more serious off road than I need. Unless I missed one!  Some of the other bigger solutions will be added to a new page Including some interesting home built ones... But they are all outdoor only designs.

And that means a Powerchair must be suitably compact, In fact as small as humanly possible to give best capability indoors!  A long range, long lasting, Wheelchair that's GOOD at everything.

And when indoors, every inch really really does count. As does weight. And finish matters too. Finish on every single part of production powerchairs other than the frame itself is usually abysmal. Usually just a black microscopically thin dull layer of black paint and cheap plated fasteners. One winter makes them look very old.

Unfortunately Off Road (All terrain) use and All Day Capability dictates that big 70Ah batteries MUST be used and even then they really struggle. The SLOWER a powerchair is the better the batteries can cope off road, as lower gearing means much less amps are pulled from the batteries as you travel at any given speed. (2x 70ah Group 24 batteries are minimum requirements).

But the slower it is the more useless it becomes on the street!  Ever tried crossing a huge intersection even with a 6mph power wheelchair? Its plain dangerous! And the pub takes forever when its cold in winter. But speed (and Off Road / Mud) costs!  It costs in battery size and weight and capacity.

Lead based batteries  (Deep Cycle Gel and AGM that we use) are just not quite good enough to build "real" Off Road all day powerchairs. They are the biggest technical issue stopping us having even decent normal powerchairs. Its all a compromise based around the batteries.

Lithium batteries are good enough but way too expensive for general use. As are Ni-Cad, Nickel Metal Hydride batteries.  The big heavy lead batteries we are stuck with for the moment and with big motors and large control systems (100 amps or so) means a big powerchair unless you are very inventive! And it gets bigger the faster/further/more off road you want to go. Safely Ignore all manufacturers "range" figures.  They are meaningless.

Most off road powerchairs are wider than a "normal" 25 inch wide powerchair. They are often longer too. And much less manoeuvrable indoors. So this means that "real" off road performance will ALWAYS be limited and your off road chair will be useful only certain times meaning swapping back and forth into different chairs. You still need a normal indoor power wheelchair as well. So even going to the local flying site in my van and driving around on a soft wet grass airfield isn't possible without using 2 chairs. And I cant transport 2 or transfer easily from one to the other...

There are very few powerchairs that can be considered both small, usable and that have some Off Road capability (and a smooth pavement ride) that are usable every day.
My own home design and the Frontier X5 come to mind. (Photo above!)  The frontier is mid drive though which I personally hate. Some people love them. But then some people love front wheel drive cars too. Usually the ones that don't much care or know a lot about cars!  (More details of the X5 lower down the page.)  Most other Off Road capable chairs are much bigger, or 4 wheel drive and cannot be used indoors at all and so can serve only one outdoor purpose. 

The X5 unfortunately has the usual Mid drive (or front drive) trait of having a huge chunk of chair stuck out behind you though which gets in the way indoors and looks awful and unbalanced.

Range I have a page on range here and its particularly important when it comes to off road capable powerchairs. You should read it if you plan on buying any off road powerchair. Or a 4x4 style off roader or a Tramper etc. Because grass, mud, sand and hills or skid steering drain batteries very fast.

Pushing a wheelchair, even a powerchair with the motors disengaged is reasonably easy on a smooth flat surface. Doing the same in off road conditions or even on grass is MUCH harder!  Well your batteries are doing the pushing. Depending on quite how off road you go this can be very limiting and impractical for a battery powered vehicle. The range and usage time limit in these conditions is very restrictive.  If a powerchair can only be used outdoors then what is the point of it being battery powered? An engine is lighter and has better range and power...

This is the reason I built my own chair in the way I did. Its not designed to go Off Road to the extent that some off road wheelchairs are. Because I don't need that. I need not to get stuck on sand or wet/muddy grass etc.

And IMPORTANTLY I need a smooth ride on our pavements. Because I don't think real off road stuff is very practical at all in a sensible sized powerchair anyway. So instead I built a rear drive version of the X5 shown earlier on this page with a large number of improvements from an old Sunrise F55s powerchair very similar to my usual lightly modified standard version here.

However if you are prepared to accept the range usage issues off road, and the fact that there will be a need for more than one powerchair then there are a number of bigger off roaders out there built by reputable companies as well as by individuals. And some will be shown further down the page.

Why I didn't just buy an X5?

Even though mid drive powerchairs totally upset my personal mechanical sensibilities I seriously considered the Frontier X5

It has amazingly similar dimensions to my own home built powerchair, However mines 4 full inches shorter but in addition has no "corners" --  (swing away footrests or rear casters swivelling about in your way) to help its tight indoor manoeuvrability and mine is narrower by 2+ inches.  

Frontier X5That 2+ inches really matters to me and most other users I would suspect. 2 inches is a big deal. (A friend emailed me and basically said the same thing and he has an X5).

In my case it would hit various doors in my home and wont allow me to use my van as it hit the side door pillar when trying to get lined up with the wheelchair clamp. Obviously it impedes manoeuvrability in any tight area like in a toilet or when trying to manoeuvre in a bar or restaurant too. And you sit higher too. So with its extra length, width, and height it feels like a tank in comparison which isn't ideal indoors!

Its one reason I choose to build my own. As I keep saying every inch really counts, especially with width! (And "corners"). 

Oh how I hate swing away footrests and rear casters!  Or battery boxes hanging out of the rear. All these things prevent me from going about my life and get in the way or look plain ugly!

It also uses the exact same sized drive wheel size and tyres. They are 145/70 6 off road tyres as fitted to small 50cc "quad" bikes. Although mine are tubeless because I seriously hate punctures. (tubes "pop" like a balloon or rip or expand around a puncture allowing deflation)

They are balloon type tyres which run at an amazingly low pressure of around 4psi.to 5psi It means a smooth ride on our uneven pavements. Or anywhere. Better than any short travel suspension system that we get on any current powerchairs. 

And the seat is unsuitable as I need my Jay2 Cushion! although that may well be changeable. (Update: I checked and it is) And finish. I like my chairs to last, So use stainless steel bearings, powder coat ALL parts and polished stainless steel fasteners everywhere. So I would need to strip and rebuild the X5 or any other chair I bought anyway to give it a proper salt and winter muck long term protection. As I do with all my own powerchairs because I am very OCD about this stuff...

Some other reasons I didn't buy one of these X5s?

  • Speed. 7.5mph?  With 20 stone bloke and 70ah batteries?  Sorry but it would need to be charged twice a day with my amount of usage even if I never went off road!  Doesn't compute.. With my weight a powerchair needs 6mph max gearing to stand any chance of lasting all day with heavy usage and even then its borderline. So much for their 400lb user limit. It simply doesn't add up - not with its 70 amp hour batteries...

  • Controller only 80 amps. Total output 160 amps. 900 watts. . That's 40 amps less than my current powerchair which isn't enough already for the steepest ramps and proper control in difficult situations. And I have lower gearing! which means another increase it torque available at the wheels.

  • Arms look too weak to have a 20 stone guy lifting his weight and swinging on them while transferring or pressure relieving. They would bend I suspect - now confirmed by a reader and user.  I am paraplegic and heavy. I have not "tried" this but am pretty certain of the outcome.  Why don't they understand this stuff?

  • Caster wheels too small for our streets and will object to our uneven pavements, never mind too narrow for off road soft ground too in this wet soggy country. Or sand. I know this because I have a set of similar ones that I have tried. Better indoors but a little too small outdoors. Small things but fitting bigger ones means the dimensions exceed my own home built powerchair length and manoeuvrability indoors by a significant margin especially since there's 4 of them.. One penalty of mid drive?

  • Swing away footrests would be in my way while transferring, and in the way indoors and in my van while manoeuvring as they form corners at the front right where you need them least... Corners are bad. Every time you try to turn in a tight spot they hit things. That's why I cut the ones off the F55 the day I got it and fitted a single footplate literally ten minutes after taking delivery of my first powerchair 12 years ago!  As will the rear casters sticking out and swivelling about at the rear. (Another mid drive issue) look below...

x5 PowerchairAnd they have a great chunk sticking out at the rear like most front and mid drive powerchairs. Ugly! And wide...

X5 Review page

My own custom built chair is more manoeuvrable (shorter corner to corner) and my head is the most rearward part! And has way more torque at the wheels. (from gearing and bigger amp controller and "greedier" motors)

They quote torque as "900 watts" for the X5 which makes ABSOLUTELY no sense.  Mine is 1200 watts (Rated Motors) but that's NOT a torque measurement. Torque is a twisting force. Measured in say Pounds Feet or Newton Metres, etc. That torque would depend on controller, motor efficiency, and on chosen gear ratio as well as battery resistance and a bunch of other major things we don't know!

Well since mine has lower overall gearing (lower top speed and greater torque) and the controller can output 2400 watts (100 amps per channel @ 24v and the motors take 100 amps each at low RPM's) then I should have about 35 to 40 percent more torque at the wheels or more.  But I still don't know how much that is without actually measuring it!  You cannot calculate that from watts since you don't know efficiencies of motor/controller/ or actual gear ratios... Its a good bit more though!

And it depends on low level controller programming and actual motor impedance as to how "accessible" that torque actually is. Mines very accessible! Hence this and of course it depends on the chosen batteries to provide that current.

Most can't do so without severe voltage drop like most GEL batteries will do unless fully charged. Which is why I use AGM batteries instead. This is because GEL batteries have a higher internal resistance. And it increases with discharge level and number of cycles. So they soon can't cope.


X5-Frontier (image above)

Length: 43 inches
Minimum Transport Length: 32 inches
Width: 28 inches
Weight including Batteries: 260 lbs
Battery Type: Group 24, 75 amp/hr
Driving Range: 20 miles
Maximum Speed: 7.5 mph
Turning Radius: 21.5 inches
Maximum Curb Capacity: 4 inches
Incline Capacity: 15
Maximum User Weight: 400 lbs
Motors: Two 24V DC Custom Design 4 pole
Total Motor Torque: 900 Watts (watts isn't a torque measurement)
Tires: 145-70/6 Low Pressure (3.6psi)
Park Brakes:  Electromagnetic Disc X2
Control System: Dynamic Controls DX2 High Current System


My OWN home built Powerchair!

ultimate cool powerchair

This is my own home built powerchair

You cant buy one unfortunately but you can make one yourself for about 1700 UK Pounds!  As I did.  For full details click the link above...  It can use the same type of Off Road tyres as the X5 as well as these puncture proof tubeless grass and road ones shown They are the same size (ish). I have both types here and use one in summer and the others in winter. Its also better finished for the long term too with ALL parts powder coated and all stainless steel bolts and bearings.

Picture of the ultimate power wheelchair

Picture of my power wheelchair medium | Picture of my power wheelchair large

Different "winter" tyres are great on mud/sand.

And its smaller, narrower, shorter and lower and more manoeuvrable and more powerful than the X5 or any other "do all" powerchair. And it has strong arms that a 20 stone guy can swing on when transferring or pressure lift/relieving unlike the others on here...

My home built powerchair  full details...

Bedroom built F55s/Off Road, Indoor, One Off Special do all PowerChair Specs...  

Total length not including footplate 30 inches (750mm).  for transport. Seat back removable too.
Total length including footplate:
40 inches (1000mm)
at the moment which is already about as short as you will find for a full power top end powerchair. 

If I cheated and used a narrow footplate like on the X5 or on most manual wheelchairs then about 6 inches or so less!  Bt the reality is that your feet stick out anyway so what's the point? But it also has no corners as the single plate is in the centre only helping manoeuvrability further still. No wide cumbersome swing away footplates stuck out in the corners.  And no casters swinging around at the rear.  If I modify the frame or make my own as I have considered then the front casters can come back a few inches further and the foot plate can follow. So it could be even  shorter. Say 35 inches total.

Width at widest point (rear tyres)
25.25 inches (640mm)
It depends on tyre pressures!  And tyre manufacturer. They vary a fraction.  That's as narrow as almost all indoor powerchairs and narrower than most.. They vary from 23 to 27 inches generally and my measurement is s with an 18 inch cushion!   Manufacturers use small cushions when quoting width to cheat as the arms have to be adjusted outwards...
Seat Height
Tilted back by 12 degrees 18.25 inches
That's pretty low for a powerchair. At the front If levelled it can be as low as 16.25 inches.  You have to add a cushion typically 2 inches to that in use.  It could be made an inch and a half lower than that without hitting anything if required or as high as you wanted. It just involves a pair of new fabricated seat brackets but there is plenty of space to do so.
Unknown will update but its Lots lighter than stock F55s was judging by the pile of rust prone iron I cant lift in the corner of my workshop. Includes a multitude of steel tubes and brackets, the swing away footplates and lights, as well as the heavy rear swinging arm and suspension components, fake carbon fibre bodywork, original heavy wheels, "sides" that were on the arms and loads more.
Max curb:
Depends on user!  4 inch is easy enough even in this chair. But it hurts... Bigger maybe possible with the new one since its soft fat tyres deform around objects like curbs and they feel "smoother"  Dunno depends how brave you are... Get it eight and 4 inches is easy. Get it wrong and tip out the back! Done that too. Doesn't hurt as long as you hold your head forwards... But you cant get back up without help!
Max user weight:
Unknown, I am about 20 stone see notes about
range. 25 stone wouldn't hurt it but batteries would suffer... There can never be a real "range" figure on any powerchair. Too many variables involved making such claims meaningless.
Incline capacity:
More than 15 degrees. Probably 18 is safe if you can lean forwards.. Unknown max depends on user weight and seating position. Power isn't an issue here no matter how steep.

If you can stay in the seat it would reverse up very steep slopes. More but requires user skill and control like a manual wheelchair going forwards. Safe in reverse on VERY steep ramps if you don't fall out of the front! But tips back going forwards if its too steep. Requires some user skills like a sport manual chair... Not for old ladies. It has the power for steep angles even with my considerable weight in it. If not the stability! If you want manoeuvrability, and a machine that wheelies easily then it tips back easily. Its a user adjustment choice much like a manual wheelchair.

Turning Radius:
See this page!  Length is all that matters. (!)  This chair is very manoeuvrable and is short and has no corners to hit door frames etc when turning
Control System:
200 amp total (2x 100) Penny and Giles Pilot Plus (reprogrammed severely to allow actual regular access to that 100 amps per channel.) The batteries do not like it however.  Soon to be up rated to R-Net with more amps still!  My clamp meter shows the chair draws 100 very often so a bigger amp controller is ordered.
Electromagnetic release like almost all powerchairs. But its turned off and manually adjusted to hold the brakes "off" at all times as I hate the clicking.  It rolls down slopes like this but its lovely and quiet.  I can switch it on and off.
145-70 / 6 Low Pressure (4 to 7 psi) Tubeless for less punctures! And 1/4 filled with tyre seal fluid just in case.  Or 15 x 6.00 - 6 "puncture resistant Kevlar lined Lawn" tyres. See pictures above...
6.25 mph Depends on terrain, user weight etc for exact speed. About 8mph down the hill that is my street!  It is very easy to arrange for faster speed like 8mph but that costs range, torque and ability. Batteries are not yet capable of this unless you are light.
25 miles. Depends entirely on terrain, type of use, weight of user, temperature etc, See range  I do about 10 off road dog walking and it needs a 1 hour fast charge before the pub...

4 Pole 6.2mph EMD about 2400 watts limit due to 2x 100 amp controller limit. They take 100 amps plus upwards if its available to about 1/3rd max speed given a chance (if programming delays and motor settings allow) as they are pretty low impedance motors. So that at low speed that is 2400 watts according to Mr Ohms law. But that's not how motors are rated. 900 Watts on EMD website max.  They are more powerful than all other 4 pole motors I have experimented with.  See below...
battery type:
Group 24 or 55 to 75 Amp Hour Deep Cycle. Odyssey AGM batteries fitted as Gel batteries are too high internal resistance and cannot cope with discharge currents required + Fast charging from about 60 percent used up to 95 percent full in under 1 hour.

Own home built powerchair  full details here (3 pages)


There is another Do Everything Powerchair...

The Field Master 224 (Fieldmaster?)

Didn't know if I should include it as it requires reconfiguring to do Both In/Outdoor.

This one claims to be able to go anywhere. It also claims to be a normal powerchair as well. The main problem I see is that you have to attach a different front end.

But if I could do that then I wouldn't need a wheelchair? This is OK for those that always have someone with them.  I get up to no good all day long while alone.

I want to be able to get up out of bed, be helped into my Powerchair and then be able to go out alone, get in my van and drive to the fields or the wood where I walk my dog Arnie or anywhere else I wish to go. Alone and in one do everything powerchair!   

I don't want to be switching powerchairs, (I couldn't do it alone) or swapping front ends or having to rely on someone else doing it so for me this wouldn't work. I want independence!  Hence the DIY approach...

And without trying one of these I have no idea how good it is as a full time daily powerchair either. Looking at it I suspect it has a number of issues.  I know it wouldn't suit me although few chairs do! The same cant be said for everyone else though.

I suspect its a bit long and nose heavy for my liking indoors when converted into a very long powerchair with casters (included). Could be wrong. And maybe doesn't allow my preferred cushion etc. Although that may also be wrong. Will investigate further but there are no statistics on the website for normal wheelchair configuration.  And it like many powerchairs looks to suffer from the weak arm problem that wouldn't let me use them to swing on to do pressure relief or transfer without damaging them.

Not too sure about those 3.5 inch wide tyres either. I already have that size on my old home built powerchair and they sink in soft stuff like sand/snow/mud hence the new version with much fatter tyres. But I suspect it will suit a great many other people that are more mobile and can swap powerchairs easily. Of course they will need a trailer or a big van too.


Bounder with Off Road Package (Copied from the Off Road ONLY powerchairs page since it deserves to be here as well.) I think...

When I first saw this my eyes lit up. Maybe I didn't need to build my own after all. Then I started to realise that this too was too big for my van and my house. And too heavy. Its a shame because on first sight it ticks all the boxes.

Its even black! All my wheelchairs and clothes and van are black! I do black everything... Now I cannot find any width measurements anywhere or a length measurement either. (Update: Its a whopping 29.5 inches wide actually measured by a reader! So I was correct, its far too wide for most doors, vans, etc) Those tyres are the same size as the ones on my powerchair that I am currently building but the whole chair is some 4,25 inches wider than my own. Oops. Its considerably longer too. Oh well. Looks as if they simply bolted fat tyres to an existing chair...

It also looks a lot longer at both the front and at the rear with a big ugly battery box sticking out the rear (lower down the page). Shame really about the size.

In this picture it looks pretty good other than the width/length issue, but when you look at the rear below it looks less well designed...

Same type of powerchair as above but with narrower smooth indoor tyres/wheels. Cant find a rear view of the one with the fat tyres fitted. It does look the same as this one though. The huge battery box hanging out of the rear is the thing that really puts me off this powerchair. It looks like its not fitted properly. What is it that makes people design stuff like this. It spoils an otherwise reasonably good looking if dated powerchair.

And the very large square old fashioned control box that you cant see here. This bit hanging out of the rear also means you cannot reverse your head back to the wall as I can in my own powerchair, and that the whole thing is unnecessarily long. Still on the plus side it is rear drive, rather than those awful mid and front drive wobbly chairs that I personally hate especially when outdoors!

If you know of any more truly capable outdoor powerchairs that are truly capable indoors too please let me know! Thanks.

So far these few are alone in this class and they are all still too big and wide (other than my own home built one).

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