How Does An Electric Wheelchair Work?

By Published On: 4 March 2022

Electric wheelchairs, especially folding ones, are often queried as to how they work, especially when compared to more rigid powerchairs or mobility scooters.

Electric wheelchairs work through a series of motors, powered by batteries and controlled through a joystick. As a market leading provider of folding electric wheelchairs, the experts at LITH-TECH look at how they work and the systems that power the wheelchairs we offer.

Understanding How an Electric Wheelchair Works

An electric wheelchair works through a series of motors, which are powered by electric, rechargeable batteries, and controlled through a joystick by a user or carer.

In this blog, we cover the following areas of a wheelchair, explaining how it works:

  1. Battery
  2. Motors
  3. Controls and joysticks

Understanding a Motorised Wheelchair

A motorised wheelchair is one that is powered through a battery. At LITH-TECH, we use lithium batteries, hence the name LITH-TECH, which stands for lithium technology. All our wheelchairs are rear wheel drive and have a variety of different wheel sizes for different uses.

1) Battery Power in Wheelchairs

LITH-TECH uses lithium-ion batteries, which are a relatively new advancement in the mobility world. The advantages of lithium batteries are that they are much more efficient than lead acid batteries. In lithium batteries the power usage is 80-100% rather than lead acid batteries which can only use 50-70% of its maximum output at any one time. Lithium batteries are very lightweight compared to the old-fashioned wheelchair batteries, with our batteries only weighing on average 1.5KG.

By using rechargeable and detachable batteries, like LITH-TECH does, you can ensure the safe and reliable use of a wheelchair.

2) Motors in an Electric Wheelchair

In electric wheelchairs, there are two types of motor: brushed and brushless.

  • Brushed motors use a series of brushes that maintain contact with the commutator, which provides energy to the rotor to achieve power and movement. If a brush breaks or wears down, the wheelchair will be unusable until it is fixed.
  • Brushless motors, which is what LITH-TECH uses, are quieter, smoother to operate and are more likely to last longer without repairs and maintenance. They can also be controlled more precisely with a joystick, and have a greater lifespan, reducing electrical waste.

This means, that while the upfront cost may often be steeper, the lifetime cost to a user is much lower. At LITH-TECH, we want to make sure that you have a premium wheelchair, made with parts that are designed to last, rather than breaking once the warranty ends.

3) How Does an Electric Wheelchair Joystick Work?

To use an electric wheelchair, you’ll have a joystick which controls the functions of your wheelchair.

Your joystick contains a horn, a battery status and then a speed changer. This allows you to change the speed in approximate 0.5 mph increments. For further explanation, watch this clip below as Toby, the founder and CEO of LITH-TECH, talks you through the joystick.

Once you’ve set your speed, the joystick can then be used to set the direction and acceleration. For example, pushing the joystick all the way forward will allow you to accelerate quicker, whereas slightly moving the accelerator will give you less speed.

This joystick movement is converted to electrical signals, which are translated down to the motors by the control unit (which will act like the brain of the chair). This then sends the correct amount of power to the rear wheels to propel the wheelchair. It all works in unison and quickly, which is why protecting your joystick in the rain is critical, especially in order to prevent any damage to these clever mechanisms.

Are You Looking for the Perfect Electric Wheelchair?

Speak to the team here at LITH-TECH, and we can identify your needs, finding the wheelchair that best suits you.

Get in touch today.

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