Optimizing Battery Life for Electric Wheelchairs/Scooters

April 9, 2012

Are you getting at least three years life from your 12-volt gel batteries?

You should be.  It’s bad enough that power chairs and electric scooters are so expensive, but when you have to start replacing parts to keep them running the costs can be outrageous.  A 12-volt battery costs from approximately $80-100, and most mobility devices need two batteries.

Here are some tips to maximize the life of your batteries, especially scooters since these often are not used everyday like most power-chair users.

  • Every time you use your scooter, charge it.
  • If you are a part-time user, take it for a ride around the block a few times at
    least once a week. Then charge it completely.
  • At least once a month, let the batteries go into “deep cycle”.  This means run the batteries for as much distance as possible before they run out of ‘juice”.  Then charge them completely.
  • Store your equipment indoors if possible. Extremely cold temperatures in the winter or heat in the summer will not only reduce the amount of daily charge available, it will shorten the life of the batteries.  I learned this the hard way when I bought my first scooter twenty-five years ago.  I stored it in the garage the first winter when I was living in Pennsylvania, and the batteries lasted only one year (which is a typical warranty on a battery).
  • Sometimes a cell in one battery can go bad, which will put extra drain on the second battery and shorten its life.  If your batteries are less than a year or two old and you notice it starts slowing down, losing capacity or your battery indicator gauge is showing a low charge sooner than you think it should, get the batteries checked out.
  • If your mobility device uses two batteries, never put an old battery with a new
    battery, or replace just one battery.
  • Don’t buy your batteries from a medical supply place—they will scalp you! Go to
    a place such as Battery Outlet. They will also do the replacement for you, but just make sure you watch them. Sadly, many people will try to cheat you nowadays.

How far an electric scooter or wheelchair will travel depends on these things:

1.  If the batteries are charged fully.

2. The age of the batteries. A brand new battery will go much farther than
a three-year old battery. If cared for properly, a battery starts losing
capacity when it is three years old.

3. The combined weight of the person/cargo using the equipment.

4. Whether your equipment uses one or two batteries.  I weigh 125 lbs. and if my two batteries are fully charged and fairly new, I can travel eighteen miles!  My mini-wheelchair uses only one battery and on a full charge can travel about eight miles.

5. The type of terrain you are riding one. Rugged or hilly terrain requires more energy than level, smooth surfaces.