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John Williamson

Wheelchair "Power Pack" or Wheelchair Power "Add-On" devices or "Powered Wheels" for normal manual Wheelchairs.

E.g. Max-e, JW1, Alber e-Motion & E-fix, Viamobil, DAKA add on, Independence Technology iGlide & DeltaGlide, Roll-Aid and Swiss-Trak, YAMAHA JWII & JW1 etc.  Detailed PowerChair Only Menu

I get e-Mail every day from manual wheelchair users that would like more information on these add on devices hence this page. 

They serve only one real purpose
as I see it.

That is to allow you to use a manual wheelchair in a "powered" fashion after packing it into a normal (not an adapted) car.  A better solution long term is almost always to obtain a better more suitable vehicle for transporting a real powerchair instead if you need or want power.

Power pack type add on devices or powered "wheels" as discussed here, are inferior in every way to a good normal powerchair other than weight (and even here the benefit is sometimes very marginal) and the ability to fold and / or come apart for transport.

So if you do not need this its much better to investigate a real powerchair!  And remember some "real" powerchairs can also fold and disassemble too. But it causes many of the same issues as the add on power unit does as discussed below.

The issue of size (width, length, etc) is not a real benefit or adding power to a manual wheelchair since its ABSOLUTELY possible to have the same physical dimensions in a good powerchair as in any manual wheelchair!

And the manual wheelchair with "add on" power is typically harder to control, less powerful for ramps, curbs etc, slower for and distance, less practical on the street due to small skinny tyres and tiny diameter hard caster wheels, as well as having no suspension or "give" in its tyres to absorb any road shocks you will always come across as you travel outdoors.


Should you decide to go this way and buy an "Add On Power Unit" for your Manual Wheelchair there are a few more big disadvantages to consider.

1) Range... A good powerchair has two BIG heavy 12v, 70ah batteries for power. It genuinely TAKES this much power to move an average adult about all day and have a sensible usable range and to ensure its batteries live an "acceptable" time before they are replaced.  That's typically TEN TIMES the amount of "fuel" or battery capacity on board compared to a typical Add On power device.,, Can you see how this is a real problem? Some slower power chairs have smaller batteries but again the advantages are mostly weight (rather than size) and price. See here  

Some of these devices use special shaped or hard to get proprietary batteries moulded into wheel hubs, or in special cartridges or cases which means you have no alternative but to use the manufacturer own batteries. Often very regularly due to them being too small for the job they are trying to do and at great expense with no alternatives available.

2) Power (torque) is necessarily very low because batteries and motors are small. Steep ramps, thresholds etc can cause problems with many systems.

3) Speed. As above, tiny batteries and motors mean speed is also an issue. You NEED 6mph to safely cross a busy road!  (In a shopping centre its not an issue.) Including up the slope as you cross the roads "camber"...  More is better. But with small batteries the faster they are the worse the range and "power" (torque) has to be due to basic physics and Ohms law so its not really practical.

4) control. There are a variety of methods used to control these add on systems. Joysticks tend to be very difficult to steer and use due to a mix of programming and lack of torque. Steering and moving using the wheels push rims has all the disadvantages of a manual wheelchair. That is, try carrying a bowl of soup from one room to another and using a few doors on the way with one hand! You cant do it...

A real powerchair is again much better here. And with NO disadvantages indoors. Weight while putting it into and out of a car is the ONLY place these add on systems give any real benefit.

5) Strength. Your existing manual chair was not designed for power. Or extra weight. Another reason batteries are so small with these devices. And why real powerchairs have heavy frames and wheels etc to carry very heavy properly sized batteries that are truly capable of the job in hand!

Users review of the E-fix here on another of my sites

In all by all means buy one of these devices if you don't expect too much in performance or battery longevity but there are usually better alternatives.

But some people have been brainwashed into truly believing that they "don't need a powerchair" (even though they actually do or they wouldn't be looking at power "Add Ons"!  And that their manual wheelchair is best for them. In some cases that may be true but in most, it simply isn't


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