How does an electric wheelchair work?

Electric wheelchairs are an evolution of the traditional hand-pushed manual wheelchairs. Being self-propelled, they grant mobility to users over a wide range of terrains and inclines, with the motor doing the hard work.

They also differ from manual wheelchairs in the sense that they feature systems platform beneath the seat. The platform is usually enclosed within a plastic shell. This platform consists of the motor as well as a power source to drive it, which is typically a battery array.

This power pack is then connected via a wiring system to the motor, the seat and most importantly, to the control panel of the electric wheelchair.

The controls are usually located on the armrest of the wheelchair. They enable the user to operate the majority of chair’s functions. The control panel lets you adjust the seat position (this includes both elevation and tilt), motor power for speed alternation, and directional movement which is delivered through a feedback mechanism that comprises of the battery, motor and the control circuit of the control panel on the armrest.

The motor and the control panel of the electric wheelchair are connected directly. Any control operation initiated by the user is prompted to the motor (connected to the wheels through an axle), which then performs the functions such as moving forward, backward or tilting, and sends a feedback signal to control panel. If there is a change in the operation, the control panel will send the signal accordingly. All this, while continuously powered by a 12 to 80 ampere of DC battery.

The drive system or chassis of electric wheelchairs, unlike manual wheelchairs, are fixed on a single plane. They have an additional or a pair of sets in front or back of the chair that takes care of the guidance.

These guide wheels are usually fitted with variable suspension struts and springs so that the wheels remain in contact with the ground even on uneven terrains.

Modern electric wheelchairs come with large tracked wheels and have reinforced pivot frames, pneumatic suspension units, and high-torqued motors that can be operated on robust terrains and are best for cross-country use.

Some of the popular electric wheelchairs include Golden Compass Sport, Cirrus Plus HD, Drive Medical Titan X23, Pride Jazzy 600 ES, KD Smart Chair, Invacare Pronto M51 etc.

Electric wheelchairs are priced anywhere between $1000 to $4000. Some high-end electric wheelchairs can also cost up to $7000. There are a number of healthcare websites and exclusive wheelchair websites online that sell electric wheelchairs at reasonable prices. You can also consider big box stores to buy the same. Read the reviews of the brand of the wheelchair you wish to buy, on the internet to get a better idea.

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