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Powerchairs and Electric Wheelchairs Explained and Reviewed

January 08, 2019 -

Here at CareCo we offer a wide range of powerchairs and electric wheelchairs from compact chairs for indoor use up to fully featured powerchairs for negotiating various terrains, and everything in between. Powerchairs have a much shorter wheelbase than mobility scooters, making them much more manoeuvrable in tight places, ideal for getting around the house.  Powerchairs are one such aid we're proud to stock - but what defines a powerchair? How are they different to scooters and wheelchairs? What are the benefits of owning one? To give you a clearer idea today's blog is styled as a Buyer's Guide designed to answer any questions or queries you may have about powerchairs. Powerchairs come as three different styles, these include rear wheel drive, mid wheel drive and front wheel drive. All these drive systems have their advantages and disadvantages and below we’ll talk about what each system has to offer. Powerchairs are a combination of mobility scooters and wheelchairs. Easier to manoeuvre than a scooter, a powerchair is similar in design to a wheelchair as they can both be controlled by the user or an attendant. While some models have their own unique look, others are essentially motorized wheelchairs, eliminating the power needed by the user/carer. 

Rear Wheel Drive

Rear wheel drive powerchairs are the most common and most popular type of electric wheelchair and can come with a fixed frame or folding frame depending on the model. Rear wheel drive models, such as the Easi Go Electric Wheelchair, are easy to control, although they can need a larger space in which to turn compared to other types of powerchair. Pictured is the CareCo Easi Go. Compact in its measurements, the Easi Go is surprisingly hard-wearing and sturdy, suitable for use indoors and outside. With its tight turning circle you'll be able to manoeuvre around obstacles with ease, making shopping trips quick and simple! Maximum user weight: 17 stone (113kg).

Mid Wheel Drive

Mid wheel drive powerchairs have three sets of wheels, one at the front, one at the back and a set in the middle which propel the chair. These powerchairs look a lot different to standard powerchairs, but the mid wheel drive makes them feel much more stable and also means that it can turn around in the tightest space. Because mid wheel drive powerchairs are so manoeuvrable you often find that the seats are bigger and more comfortable than standard powerchairs; this is because they can often be controlled into smaller spaces.

Front Wheel Drive

As you would expect, front wheel drive powerchairs such as the I-Go Zenith Pro have their drive wheels at the front. These types of chairs are lightweight and are often more compact than other powerchairs, although they do suffer from poor dive quality and are harder to control compared to the other two types. Front wheel drive powerchairs allow the user to get closer to desks and tables, making them a popular choice for indoor use.

Powerchair features

There are several benefits found owning a powerchair over a mobility scooter or wheelchair. Powerchairs can be easier to drive, easier to manoeuvre and are harder wearing, as many have been designed to be used indoors and outside. They're also a wiser choice for those with limited mobility as less effort is required of the user to be able to control the chair. Although available in a range of styles, powerchairs generally have the same set of features all included to make your journey as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

  • Large centre wheel: Fitted beneath the seat in the centre of the frame, this large, chunky wheel and tyre power the chair forwards and backwards, providing a stable, safe ride every time.
  • Suspension: Whether it be front, rear or all-round, a powerchair's suspension is similar to that found in any other vehicle - it absorbs the vibrations created by the friction of the wheels moving.
  • Joystick controller: The simple-to-use joystick controller of a powerchair can be fitted in two places - on the armrest for the user or attached to the rear push handles for the attendant. While a user-controlled joystick gives back the feeling of independence and freedom, an attendant-controlled joystick is better suited to those who require the assistance of an attendant/carer on a regular basis.
  • Padded chair: The padded chair normally comes in three different styles - wheelchair, mobility scooter or Captain's seat. Designed to increase your level of comfort, the type you choose is up to you and your preference.
  • Armrests and footrests: Again, fitted to increase your level of comfort, arm and footrests give you somewhere to relax your limbs, keeping them within the limits of the powerchair's frame to ensure your safety.
  • Castor wheels: Fitted at the front, castor wheels are able to swivel to adapt to the direction of the powerchair, enabling a smoother ride.
  • Portability: Certain models of powerchair are able to be taken apart or folded to make transportation easier. This is a handy feature for those looking to take their powerchair away with them on days out and holidays, whether home or abroad.

Powerchair Controls

Powerchairs are usually controlled by a simple joystick which can be fitted to either armrest of the chair to accommodate both right and left handed users. More sophisticated powerchairs have the option to control other features of the chair including maximum speed and acceleration, and can also come with built-in battery indicators to show you when it needs to be recharged.

Is An Electric Wheelchair Comfortable?

As the user will be spending an extended amount of time in the powerchair, there are a number of features to consider when it comes to comfort. Adjustable seats give the user a myriad of settings to choose from to make sure they are comfortable when using the chair. Other accessories can also add to the comfort of a powerchair including extra seat cushions, lumbar supports and even headrests.

Don't Forget Accessories!

As with mobility scooters and wheelchairs, there is a huge range of accessories available for powerchairs, all designed to enhance your driving experience. From pressure relieving cushions and waterproof covers to storage solutions and rucksacks, we stock a wide variety of items all suitable for use with your powerchair. For more information about powerchairs and electric wheelchairs, our experienced staff are on hand to answer any of your questions.

Will Harrison
Will Harrison

Will Harrison is the founder of CareCo. He has worked in the mobility industry his entire life and grown CareCo from a grassroots business in his family home to the UK's leading mobility retailer with nationwide mobility showrooms and operating in the global market.

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