How Long Do Wheelchair Batteries Last for Electric Wheelchairs?
Whether you’ve been driving electric wheelchairs for years now or you’ve just bought your very first one, there is one question you should always ask when buying a power wheelchair: how long will its battery last?
Battery life is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a new wheelchair and one you should always check. If you don’t have the strength or flexibility to manually operate a wheelchair, you will need it to be powered by either someone else or an internal power source. This is where electric wheelchairs come in and the reason why battery life is so important when choosing a model. An extended battery life will allow you to run your errands freely, explore your surroundings, visit your friends and family, and participate in whatever activities bring you joy without the risk of running out of power.
In this article, we’ve compiled some of the most common questions around this topic. Read on to learn how long the battery of your power wheelchair will last, how to charge it when it is completely dead, and where to buy the very best batteries for your device.
How Long Do Electric Wheelchair Batteries Last?
Knowing the battery life of your electric wheelchair is crucial to avoid any mishaps or unforeseen events dampening what should be a stress-free outing. When you are at home, you can easily recharge your wheelchair if your battery starts to die out, but this is harder to do when you’re out and about.
You should note that, when asking how long do wheelchair batteries last, you are actually asking two different questions with related, though different answers. The first is how long will a fully charged power wheelchair battery last. The second question has to do with the expected lifespan of the battery; that is, how long will it be before you have to replace it.
Let’s start with the first question. Most fully charged electric wheelchair batteries will last for at least 8 hours, and can usually travel a range of around 10 miles. Some electric wheelchairs will provide a longer range per charge: the Merits Heavy Duty Power Wheelchair and the Karman Healthcare Power Wheelchair have a 25 miles per charge range, while the exceptional Merits Atlantis can travel for up to 32 miles per single charge, making it one of the longest range power wheelchairs on the market.
You should, however, note that there are a few factors that will most likely influence just how much time and range you can get out of your fully charged battery: the battery health (meaning how old it is, how well you’ve taken care of it, and so on) and the weight that the wheelchair has to carry on regular bases, that is, the sum of your weight and that of whatever you carry with you.
The second question relates to the lifespan of your battery. At the bare minimum, you should expect at least six months of life from a new battery, though they will often last from one to two years. This will depend not just on the model but on how well you take care of it.
Several factors will determine your battery’s lifespan. The first and obvious one is usage. Some of us will use our electric wheelchairs for short distances and just a few minutes a day, while others will want to visit the doctor independently or go on long shopping trips. These differences in frequency and style of use will dramatically influence your battery life. If you like to go out exploring or even take your wheelchair off-road, be aware that this will lead to you needing to replace your battery quicker, as the continuous irregular motion will cause tears and wear on the power source. A good piece of advice for those hoping to extend the lifespan of their batteries to their full capacity is to try to drive on flat and hard surfaces. Don’t forget, however, that the reason why you bought or are thinking of buying an electric wheelchair is to gain independence and do the things you’ve been missing out on! If this means having to replace your battery more often, plan your budget accordingly and don’t miss out on what brings you joy in life.
There are other factors to consider. Carrying heavy items with you and being heavy yourself will lead to a higher battery strain. Your driving pattern might also be negatively affecting the battery life of your wheelchair. Constantly breaking and restarting puts strain on the power source, while traveling at a constant speed helps to extend its lifespan.
Good charging habits will also influence the lifetime of your battery, which brings us to our next question…
How to Charge a Dead Wheelchair Battery?
In an ideal world, you should not have to worry about how to revive a dead battery. Preventing your battery from reaching this point is considered a key good charging habit, which will positively affect the expected lifespan of your wheelchair's power source. There are other good practices you should follow, as not charging them correctly carries a major risk of wearing them out much quicker than you usually would. For example, read the manual thoroughly, use the charger that comes with your wheelchair, and let the batteries run almost completely out before charging them again (emphasis in “almost”).
There are times, however, when even the best laid-out plans go awry and your battery drops to the dreaded zero percent charge. If your battery is tragically dead, you can still bring it back to life by tricking the charger to kickstart and continue charging a battery that has nothing left to give.
To do it you will need 1) your dead battery; 2) a battery of sufficient voltage capacity and similar to the one you want to revive, ideally one that is the same as your dead one; 3) jumper cables; 4) a voltmeter; 5) a timer, which you can easily find on your phone or even online; and 6) the original charger that came included with your device.
Begin by connecting the functioning, fully charged battery (your second battery) and the dead battery in parallel. To do so, connect positive ends with each other and then negative ends with each other. Do not connect the charger at this time: only connect the batteries to each other. Keeping the charger on at this time can lead to sparking, which can be dangerous for obvious reasons.
Only after the two batteries are connected in parallel can you connect the charger to the battery that will act as a power source. This will kickstart a slow charging process. Don't forget to keep an eye on your batteries: you are creating an energy transfer, so things might heat up. If you start to feel some heat or hear a hissing sound coming from one of the batteries, disconnect them immediately. There’s a chance the battery cannot be revived and that you will need to replace it.
If none of this happens and everything looks good, you can continue with the charging process. Use your voltage meter frequently to check when it reaches 10.5 volts. This part of the process should take between one to two hours. At this point, you should disconnect the charger from the originally "living" battery. Your previously dead battery is the only one that will remain connected to the charger. Continue charging it until it’s full again. Use your voltage meter to make sure you don’t overdo it and disconnect it once it's done.
Remember that it’s a good idea to teach your friends, family and/or caretaker how to do this process as well, so they can either help you or supervise the charging if you do it yourself. While you might hope to be completely independent and do this without any assistance, if your battery is completely dead, you might struggle to collect all the instruments and devices you need to revive it. Plan accordingly: keep them in an easy to reach place, but also don’t forget to ask for help and let some people know you might eventually need them to give you a hand with this task.
If you don’t feel confident enough to do this, most professional technicians that work with batteries, such as car technicians, will know how to fix this for you. Check if there’s someone that can provide this service, though the easiest solution is doing it yourself. Having to depend on a professional to assist you will usually mean taking the battery to their workshop, which can be an inconvenience and some will try to sell you a new battery, leading to unnecessary expenses.
Where to Buy Batteries for Electric Wheelchairs
If you are looking to purchase a battery for electric wheelchairs near you, try shopping at any of your local department or hardware stores. You can also buy them from Walmart and other large stores. If you are hoping to purchase an electric wheelchair battery online, contact Scooters 'N Chairs to find out which Electric Wheelchair battery is the best for your needs. Alternatively, try contacting the manufacturer of your power chair to order a new battery, as they will surely be able to provide one or at least refer you to a seller.