The 10 Best Electric Wheelchairs
This wiki has been updated 28 times since it was first published in October of 2016. If you, or someone you know, needs a reliable form of personal transportation, either due to an injury or a long-term chronic condition, take a look at these electric power wheelchairs. They make traveling for extended distances easier than manual options, and our selection includes rugged trail-riders and foldable models you can take almost anywhere, including on airplanes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 07, 2020:
While more expensive than traditional models, electric wheelchairs make getting around town much less of a hassle for disabled individuals, especially those with limited arm strength. Since these should make life more convenient, rather than less, we focused on models that have features and properties to enhance this ease of use. This meant we were generally partial to options that were lightweight and which folded up so they can be put into the trunk of a car. The Forcemech Navigator, Forcemech Voyager R2, and Porto Mobility Ranger Reclining are prime examples of this. All weigh 60 pounds or less when equipped with two batteries, and both the Forcemech Navigator and Porto Mobility Ranger Reclining can support riders well over 300 pounds. The Forcemech Voyager R2 has a lower rider capacity, but it also weighs the least of these three. It is worth noting that both the Forcemech Navigator and Porto Mobility Ranger Reclining can climb steeper grades too, with the latter boasting an impressive ability to tackle gradients as steep as 25 degrees.
When it comes to range, the Sentire Med Forza FCX and Karman XO-202 immediately stand out. The former can go up to 20 miles before needing to be recharged, and the latter up to 25. Many may want to consider the Karman XO-202 for another reason to. It has the ability to prop the rider up in a standing position, which can be great for improving circulation and relieving some of the pressure on the back and buttocks.
We think many users will appreciate the Pride Jazzy Air 2 for its ability to raise the rider up to 12 inches above its standard sitting height. This can be especially useful when approaching high counters and tables, or simply for those times you want to be eye level with others while carrying on a conversation.
The Golden Technologies LiteRider Envy GP162 doesn't fold up, but instead offers portability in another way. It is designed to breakdown very quickly, with no piece weighing more than 35 pounds. It is also very budget-friendly and has a large storage basket for holding your items.
June 23, 2019:
Just because you are disabled doesn't mean you have to rely on others to get you around town. All of the models on our list offer at least 10 miles of range on a single charge, with most getting 16 miles or more. If you often travel over rough sidewalks, your best bet is to get a model with oversized rear wheels designed for such a use, like the Forcemech Navigator, EZ Lite Cruiser HD Deluxe DX12, and F KD FoldLite. Instead of having oversized rear wheels, the Pride Mobility Jazzy 600 ES has extra large center wheels, along with two front and two rear casters, providing an impressive level of stability on a variety of terrain.
Except for the Pride Mobility Jazzy 600 ES, Karman XO-202, and Drive Medical Cirrus Plus, all the rest of the models on our list either disassemble or fold up for storage and transport, so avoid those three if this is important to you. Of course these models do offer things some of the other options don't, which is why they still made our list. For example, the Jazzy 600 ES features a high back and headrest that offer excellent support, the Karman XO-202 is equipped with a power lift function that can raise the user to a standing position, and the Drive Medical Cirrus Plus offers a lot of customizability to increase user comfort.
Of all the options on our list, the Karman XO-202 has the farthest range, and the Innuovo N5513A is the lightest weight when fully equipped with two batteries, though the Forcemech Voyager R2 is not far behind.
Q6 Edge 2.0 Since the world is not designed around a seated height, this interesting offering from an American-based company is equipped with a power lift feature that elevates the user to eye level with the average person. It will also get you around town rather quickly, with a 6.2MPH maximum speed when not raised up. quantumrehab.com
Quickie Q700 M With a narrow 25-inch wheelbase, this model will have no trouble fitting through any doorway. It is aptly named too, since it is upgradable to a speedy eight miles per hour. All six of its wheels are independently powered too, so the chances of it getting stuck anywhere are slim. quickie-wheelchairs.com
A Brief History Of The Wheelchair
However, it would once again take a war to spur innovation in the industry, as Canadian George Klein invented an electric wheelchair to service WWII vets.
It may seem like something that would have been invented immediately after we came up with the wheel, but wheelchairs as we know them have only been around since the late 1700s, when a gentleman named John Dawson got the idea to put two large wheels and one smaller one on a conventional chair. While his idea wasn't the most practical or comfortable, the underlying genius was apparent, and the race was on to invent a more suitable alternative.
However, it wasn't until 1881 that the self-propelled wheelchair came into existence, and with the US in the midst of the Civil War, the timing couldn't have been more opportune. This prototype placed rubber wheels over metal bicycle rims, so it's likely that it took quite a bit of upper-body strength to get around. Still, it was better than any alternative up to that point.
The first motorized wheelchair was created in London in 1916 by placing a 1.75 horsepower motor on something called an "invalid's tricycle." The resulting design was more like a motorcycle than a wheelchair, and as you might imagine, they weren't very effective for indoor use (unless you really wanted to run over family members), and the design never went into large-scale production.
In 1932, Harry Jennings invented the folding wheelchair, which is basically the design that most chairs follow today. Jennings's design was such an improvement over previous models, in fact, that he and his friend Herbert Everest quickly cornered the market. He was accused of price-rigging and lost an antitrust lawsuit, proving yet again that the allure of the wheelchair business can drive any man mad with power.
However, it would once again take a war to spur innovation in the industry, as Canadian George Klein invented an electric wheelchair to service WWII vets. This model went into mass-production in 1956, sold by a company owned by...you guessed it, Harry Jennings and Herbert Everest. Presumably they had learned their lesson about price-fixing in the meantime.
Chairs are constantly being tinkered with and improved, but the basic idea and design has remained the same since. However, big changes could be looming on the horizon, as a company called Braingate is looking to make a motorized wheelchair that can be powered with your mind (cue spooky Twilight Zone music).
What To Look For When Shopping For Your Electric Wheelchair
Fortunately, wheelchairs are getting more convenient and comfortable all the time, so you don't have to sacrifice your lifestyle just because you're in a chair. We've come a long way from the souped-up motorcycle design of the invalid's tricycle, but there are still options out there if you really want to let the world know you mean business.
If you plan on spending a lot of time in this thing, you don't want to be miserable every second.
The first thing you need to consider is size. Some models are real beasts, with extremely wide dimensions. If you're cramped for space, you probably won't want a model with over-sized tires and broad armrests. Likewise, take into consideration who might be lugging it around when you travel. If you don't have a wheelchair lift on your car, someone will have to lift it into the trunk, so you'll want a lighter model if you don't want to put that person in a wheelchair, as well.
Ultimately, though, the most important factor is definitely comfort. If you plan on spending a lot of time in this thing, you don't want to be miserable every second. While there are cushions available to make the ride more comfortable, you don't want to buy a model that's uncomfortable from the get-go. It's far better to get a cushy ride and then upgrade from there.
Also, keep in mind your individual needs, and be proactive about finding a chair that will make life easier for you in the long run. Is it a hassle for you to get in and out of the seat? In that case, find an option that's comfortable to stay in all day, so you'll need as little transferring as possible. Many options recline, and some even stand, so you can still live your day-to-day life without much interference.
Adjusting To Your New Chair
If you're used to a traditional, self-powered wheelchair, or if your motorized model will be the first one you've ever had, there are a few tips and tricks to consider that can make your life much easier.
Likewise, ensuring that any accommodations have both a ramp and curb cut-outs is essential to making sure that your outing isn't ruined.
The first thing to know is you'll need to become much more aware of your environment than you were previously. Be aware of locations that might involve steep inclines, as pushing your chair beyond that which it's able to handle is a good way to burn out the motor, and that's not cheap or easy to replace. Likewise, ensuring that any accommodations have both a ramp and curb cut-outs is essential to making sure that your outing isn't ruined.
Being aware of the path you're traveling on is important as well. While most motorized chairs have plastic wheels, you still won't want to cross nails or broken glass. Similarly, it's not as easy to notice when you've rolled over dog waste as it is in a regular wheelchair, so you could find yourself tracking poop all over your carpet before you realize what you've done. That's a lesson that you'll likely only have to learn once, though (and at least you won't have to deal with getting it all over your hand).
Finally, keep any tools for fixing or maintaining you chair handy, preferably on the chair itself (backpacks strapped behind the seat come in very handy for this). You don't want to break down and be stranded with no means of saving yourself. Fortunately, most maintenance is fairly simple, and doesn't require special tools that aren't likely to be found in your basic tool kit.