There are three types of Electric Wheelchairs, and this is the drive wheel of the chair. These are the largest wheels on an electric wheelchair, and they are connected to the motors. Where these large wheels are positioned determines if the chair is classed as Rear-wheel, Front-wheel or Mid-wheel drive.
The drive wheels are at the rear of the chair and were the most traditional and are "intuitive" to drive, - offering the best pure outdoor performance over rough or softer terrain because it gives a better power transfer from the motors, providing there are no obstacles in the way. However, they also have the biggest footprint and are the least manoeuvrable, with a large turning circle.
They are a good option if you only use your electric wheelchair outdoors but because they usually have smaller wheels at the front, these smaller wheels must climb over obstacles first, which can make it tricky to get up kerbs.
The drive wheels are at the front of the chair, which means they are great for obstacles such as kerbs etc. Front wheel drive electric chairs are now more popular in the UK. Front wheel drive electric wheelchairs movements don’t feel as intuitive when you’re first learning to drive a front wheel wheelchair, but once mastered they offer a great option with good indoor and outdoor performance. With a small footprint and turning circle they turn well in compact indoor locations and allow you to get close to objects without having castors in the way.
Outdoors, they offer better traction than rear wheel drive, and smoother kerb climbing.
The drive wheels are in the middle of the chair with four smaller wheels at the front and back of the wheelchair. Mid-wheel drive offers the best indoor performance and best of both worlds in many ways. The design allows the wheelchair to turn on the spot. They remain intuitive to drive with a bit of practice and are generally compact.
Basic mid wheel drive chairs can struggle on bumpy surfaces and ramps as the middle wheels may lose traction if too steep. Top of the range mid-wheel drive wheelchairs come with advanced suspension that overcomes this, giving excellent outdoor performance. We find mid wheel drive electric wheelchairs to be the most popular wheel configuration due to its manoeuvrability.
The best type of drive wheelchair depends on your particular needs. When choosing your electric wheelchair, we always recommend having an assessment to go through what you need. Plus, you can try out the different style of drive chair so you can see for yourself.
Finding the right electric wheelchair for you will have a positive impact on your day to day life.