Getting a new powerchair, Part 2, and why the claimed range is a crock…

On Friday, my new powerchair arrives** – it could have been sooner, but despite the website claiming it’s in stock, it’s bloody not. FFS, that really pisses me off. I know a lot of vendors of high-price items do that, depending on fast delivery from the supplier’s warehouse, but that’s no excuse for claiming an item is in stock when it’s not.

**In the event, they screwed it up and were closed when the courier came to collect it at 14.48 on Thursday. It finally came on Monday, the 13th, causing me to miss a vital cardiology appointment.

Anyway, I’ve come to a conclusion – it’s the same conclusion I came to last year, about my lightweight manual chair, before I crashed and no longer had the strength (or the breath), to use it – I’m going to live in the thing. Apart from anything else, the pain in my feet is getting worse by the day – just wearing socks hurts. My feet were fried when I was struck by lightning in 1983, and have been excruciatingly painful ever since. I’ve had enough.

That’s one reason I opted for this particular chair.

Click pic to view full size, Back to return.

The midwheel drive system makes it extremely manoeuvrable, even in a confined space, like my shoebox flat. It’s easy to adjust the seat to the right height for my keyboard, too.

Obviously, I can’t spend the whole time in it, as my flat isn’t wheelchair-friendly – I can’t get a chair into the kitchen or bathroom, for example – and there are things which I won’t give up doing that can’t be done on wheels – bread-making for example. Even so, just using the chair where I can would reduce the time spent on my feet by about 50% (it varies, naturally enough), so it’s probably worthwhile.

I’ll have to make some changes. For example, I’m an untidy sod, partly because putting stuff away takes too much effort (if I read a book, for example, I tend to toss it into the corner rather than take it back to the bedroom, where my books live – and now there’s a heap of books that’s taking over!), and partly because there’s nowhere to put stuff anyway. This place is almost totally lacking in storage space, so much so that I’ve had to press a dead fridge freezer into service as a kitchen cupboard – spices, herbs, and flavourings in the fridge half, cans and bulky stuff in the freezer section – these flats seem to be designed for people who live on ready-meals. If I was fit, I’d put up shelves and cupboards, but I’m not, and paying someone to do it for me would be ruinously expensive, so sod it!

In the meantime, the only way I can get the chair in time for the hospital next week is to opt for courier-delivery and self-assembly. No big deal – very little assembly is needed. The only problem is the batteries, big 75Ah jobs weighing  about 50lb each. Still, it only needs doing once, and I think I can manage it – put one in, have a rest, then tackle the other, rest again. It’s not as if I have to carry them – just, basically, pick them up and set them down again inside the chair, and I know how to lift without injuring myself, even in my condition. (And for anyone thinking, “Huh, what’s all the fuss about 50lb?” you really haven’t been paying attention!)

My chair has a claimed range of 25miles, feasible with those batteries, based on normal testing procedures (i.e. bugger all to do with the real world**), though I anticipate that 15 miles will be more realistic, so I find myself wondering why the same manufacturer would claim the same range for a different chair with 50Ah batteries. Who do they think they’re kidding? I have one of these, bought purely for indoor use, with 36Ah batteries and a claimed 20 mile range – I reckon I get less than 1 mile! on the flat, indoors. Do not buy one!

**This is how manufacturers arrive at their always optimistic (sometimes hopelessly so), scooter and powerchair figures. This process is rendered even more dishonest because, unlike scooters, powerchairs use battery power to steer. I published the following as part of a longer post in 2009 – it’s worth repeating:-

If you have a powerchair, or scooter, and wonder why the claimed range is apparently a work of fiction (see I’ve bought a lemon and I want my money back… for the full story of my then current problem), or are thinking of buying such a machine, this will be of interest to you. The following, abstracted from an Advertising Standards Authority judgement of Pride Mobility, in a complaint about the pitiful range of their Quantum 6000 powerchair (now discontinued, I’m happy to report, though some dealers are still selling off old stock), the one I have and wish I didn’t, this is how Pride measure the range of their mobility products, specifically, the Quantum 6000. Any relationship to the real world is purely imaginary:-

The test showed the simulated driving range of the scooter being operated by a person who weighed between 125 and 150 pounds (57 – 68 kg) while driving in a fixed forward direction, at full speed, until the fully charged batteries were depleted.

The report said the Quantum 6000 chair was set up on rollers for the testing and was powered by two MK 70 amp/hour batteries. It said a counter was set up to count the drive wheel revolutions and an amperage reading was taken, with the test sample being operated on a flat surface before being set up on the rollers, to ensure equivalent energy consumption was obtained during the test.

The report stated that the test sample was allowed to run continuously until the batteries reached a low operating threshold voltage and turned off the controller. The report concluded that during the test, the sample unit travelled 47,780 revolutions, which equated to 54.33 km or 33.76 miles. It stated that taking into account the influence from turning, stopping and starting, or hill climbing a realistic distance would be 25% less than the figure obtained which was approximately 40 km or 25 miles.

WTF? That this test is actually perfectly legal beggars belief  – it bears no relationship whatsoever to normal usage. Even so, according to Pride, with due allowance for my weight – a lot more than their small test person – I should be getting maybe 15-18 miles**. That’s a crock. I’ll go further – it’s a flat-out lie. The ASA, toothless gits that they are, where happy with this garbage, and found against the complainant who, like me, could only squeeze 8 miles from his Q6000.

Other manufacturers use somewhat more honest methods, using a light rider (about 8 stone), and running the machine on an indoor track until it dies. It still bears no resemblance to real-world use – no stopping and starting, no kerbs, ramps or hills – but it’s far less of a totally cynical crock of shit than Pride’s method, even if the ASA did respond in its normal, gutless, manner.

There is only one way to test the range of a powerchair or scooter honestly – run-in the batteries to maximise their capacity, then send out a rider of average weight, in an average city, a place where one might be expected to encounter occasional hills (not around here where very little is flat). Run a Class 3 road-legal machine on the road, and a Class 2 pavement machine on the pavement, with all the buggeration in terms of kerbs, ramps, cars parked on the pavement, blind pedestrians,** and dogshit have to be contended with.

**Not actually blind – the buggers just don’t pay attention to anything going on around them.

That is the only way to get a range figure that’s honest. And even then, it won’t reflect your, or my, reality, but it’ll be a hell of a lot closer to it than counting wheel revolutions and extrapolating complete crap from that.

Why? Because the distance covered per wheel revolution depends entirely on how hard the tyre is. The harder it is, the greater the circumference when the weight of the machine is on it. So inflating the tyre to, say, 100psi or more, until it was effectively rock hard, would give a falsely high reading, whereas a chair in normal use, with, in my case 40psi in the tyres, would be substantially compressed by the combined weight of me and the chair, the circumference would be reduced, thus the distance travelled per wheel revolution will be considerably less.

It’s not rocket science, and the ASA failed utterly to take that into account.

By the way, on the same principle, keeping your chair or scooter tyres as hard as comfortably possible (easier if you have suspension), will extend your range a little.

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2 thoughts on “Getting a new powerchair, Part 2, and why the claimed range is a crock…

  1. 50lbs ? I would scream in agony if u asked me to lift 5 lbs some days 😦 Good luck with the assembly. DONT hurt yourself xxx hope it proves to be a good chair and you get at least 12 miles range from it at the very least. xxx

    • Me too on an average day. I’m hoping I can muster the strength for the few seconds it’ll take to lift each one and lower it into the chair – have to get everything lined up properly first. It’ll hurt, but it only needs to be done once.

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