For wheelchair users, the choice between an electric wheelchair and a manual wheelchair often revolves around the physical abilities of the wheelchair user.
However, many other considerations, including personal preference, budget, and the place the wheelchair will be used.
For those who have decided to invest in an electric wheelchair, selecting the right power chair is very important, so it is important to understand some of their features and some of the different electric wheelchairs.
Rear-Wheel Drive Power Chairs VS Mid-Wheel Drive Power Chairs
There are several ways to categorize electric wheelchairs, but the drive system is one of the most important considerations.
Power chairs are either driven by a mid-wheel drive system or a rear-wheel-drive system.
Understanding the difference between the two is important because they both offer advantages and disadvantages.
A rear-wheel-drive power chair, as the name implies, is driven by the rear wheels.
Rear-wheel-drive power chairs typically have only two wheels, one in the front and one in the back, with the back wheels being responsible for moving the wheelchair.
They may also have anti-tip casters, but there are usually only four as far as actual weight-bearing wheels.
Since the weight of the wheelchair user is spread out evenly amongst the four wheels, the rear-wheel-drive system provides a very stable platform.
This makes it a better choice for outdoor use or higher weight capacities.
A mid-wheel drive power chair, on the other hand, has three sets of wheels and is driven by the middle set of wheels.
The main advantage of a mid-wheel drive power chair is that it is very maneuverable, which results in a smaller turning radius than a rear-wheel-drive system.
However, the weight distribution is not as even on a mid-wheel drive system, as the middle set of wheels supports the most weight.
This makes them not as stable as a rear-wheel-drive system but an excellent choice for indoor use because mid-wheel drive wheelchairs are very maneuverable.
Portable Power Chairs VS Standard Power Chairs
Deciding whether to go with a portable power chair or a standard power chair is also an important consideration and depends a great deal on the user’s needs and where the electric wheelchair will be used.
Portable power chairs, which are sometimes called travel power chairs, are designed to be taken apart into several easy-to-manage pieces.
These individual pieces are light enough to usually be lifted by most people so that the wheelchair can be transported without using a vehicle wheelchair lift.
However, it is important to note that even though portable power chairs are designed to be as light as possible, the heaviest piece is usually around fifty pounds, so some might still find this too heavy to lift.
To reduce weight, portable power chairs have reduced features, such as smaller seats, and typically have a slightly lower top speed, range, and weight capacity.
On the other hand, Standard Power Chairs weigh a great deal more than portable power chairs and typically require a vehicle wheelchair lift to transport.
Standard power chairs can typically still be easily disassembled, but the individual pieces are typically heavier than those of a portable power chair, with the heaviest piece usually weighing around ninety pounds.
While standard power chairs are not as easily transported without a vehicle wheelchair lift, they are typically more comfortable and include more features.
Standard power chairs usually have a more comfortable chair, a higher per-charge range, higher top speed, and a greater weight capacity than travel power chairs.