How fast do electric wheelchairs go? And what is the speed limit?

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how fast do electric wheelchairs go

Electric wheelchairs are one of the UK’s most popular mobility vehicles. This is mainly due to their flexibility which allows them to be used both indoors and outside. For somebody that can not walk, or somebody that struggles with walking, an electric wheelchair can be a new lease of life. Allowing them to do things independently, whereas in the past they may have needed assistance.

Before getting a new electric wheelchair, people often have a lot of different questions. One of these might be how fast do electric wheelchairs go?

Due to laws in the UK, the speed limit for most electric wheelchairs is 4mph (6.4kmh). At this speed they are only allowed on the pavement. They are not permitted to use the road, except when there is no pavement, or if they are crossing the road.

Larger mobility scooters can have speed limits of up to 8mph. These can be used on the road when registered with the DVLA.

How fast can wheelchairs go by law in the UK

In the UK, the law describes mobility vehicles, such as wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters as invalid carriages. This describes a vehicle that is used by somebody with mobility issues. It is also defined by the speed of the mobility vehicle and its weight.

There are 3 classes of invalid carriage in the UK which can be seen below:

  1. Class 1. – This class covers any mobility vehicle that is not mechanically propelled. So, this is usually referring to manual wheelchairs. Such as self-propelled chairs and assisted travel, or transport wheelchairs.

  2. Class 2. – In this second category you will find most electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Mobility vehicles in Class 2 have a top speed of 4 mph. They are designed for use on pavements and public walkways. Class 2 mobility vehicles are not allowed on the road, unless there is no pavement provided, or if they are crossing.

  3. Class 3. – This final class is reserved for mechanically powered mobility vehicles with an upper speed limit of 8mph. These can be used on the road or the pavement.

    When used on the road, they have a top speed of 8mph and like all other mobility vehicles they should not exceed 4mph on pavements.

As well as speed the weight of the mobility device will affect its category. For Class 1 & 2 they should not exceed 113.4 kg.

For Class 3 they should weigh between 113.4 and 150kg.

These Classes of invalid carriage are designed to protect the user and other members of the public. You can read more about the legislation and accident statistics here

Can you get faster Electric wheelchairs?

To the best of our knowledge, at the time of writing this. All electric wheelchairs in the UK fall into the class 2 invalid carriage bracket, this means that they have a maximum speed of 4 mph and cant be used on the road.

However, there are many mobility scooters that have an upper speed limit of 8 mph. These are an ideal solution if you are looking for something that can travel faster. But there are a few things you will lose when choosing this type of mobility scooter. These include:

  • They are heavy. If you need something that can be moved around easily when not in use, this could be a problem. With a weight between 113kg and 150kg, even somebody with particularly good mobility, could struggle lifting this type of mobility scooter.

  • Hard to travel with. This ties in slightly with the first point. Obviously, due to the weight and size you will not be getting this in the back of most vehicles.

  • Due to their size they cannot be used indoors. For a lot of electric wheelchair users this is a big deal. Their electric wheelchair is not just for getting around outside. They also use it indoors in every aspect of their day to day life.

  • Less maneuverable. Again, this is due to the size of this type of mobility vehicle. They generally do not do very well in tight spaces. This is due to a large turning circle which can be as high as 2.5m

As you can see higher speed for your mobility vehicle is going to come with some trade-offs. What you need to decide is if high speed is that important.

The average walking speed in the UK is roughly 3mph. So, an electric wheelchair with a top speed of 4mph, is more than enough for most people who are using it to replace walking in their day to day life.

Does terrain effect wheelchair speed?

There are many different models of electric wheelchair and some are better on different terrains than others.

The speed of most chairs will be affected by different terrain. However, some chairs are better equipped to handle different surfaces.

You can buy wheelchairs that are specifically designed to be all terrain. These will have much better performance on things like grass and gravel. Or even very uneven off road terrain.

On the other hand, some electric chairs are specifically designed for indoors and smooth surfaces.

We recently wrote a review on the Pride I-Go. This chair is reasonably priced and is agood option for people looking for a simple, folding electric wheelchair. It works great on flat surfaces. But it can struggle if you take it on more uneven terrain.

So, does this mean folding electric wheelchairs cannot be used off road? No, not at all. In fact, there are chairs like the 10J from Better Products for Disabled, that work amazingly well on different terrains.

The main point here is there are lots of different electric wheelchair types. This also includes different brands and models. All of which have different features. This means, if maintaining speed on different terrains is important to you. Then you will need to ask this type of question before you choose which wheelchair to buy.

What else can affect the speed of your electric wheelchair?

Other than the terrain you are traveling on, there are a few other things that could affect the speed of your electric wheelchair. Below you can see a few more things that you should consider.

  1. Steep gradients. This is another issue that will affect different chairs in different ways. Some electric wheelchairs will do very well on hills. To the point that the speed is unaffected, and the chair adjusts the power output to the gradient.

    On the other hand some chairs may struggle a little more once they hit a slope. This will usually mean that the top speed will drop as the incline increases.

  2. Battery life. This may seem obvious, but as the battery becomes lower, the power output can also decrease. This can also be affected by older or poorly maintained batteries.

    We have a whole article on how long electric wheelchair batteries last here. It also discusses ways to maintain your battery for longer life and better performance.

  3. User weight. In most cases an electric wheelchair will not adjust for user weight. This simply means that the heavier the user is, the slower the chair is likely to go. However, there are chairs that are specifically designed for higher user weight and the speed of these chairs, will be impacted much less by user weight.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has explained how fast an electric wheelchair can go. It should have also given you a slightly better understanding of the law surrounding electric wheelchair speed limits.

Also, we highlighted several things that could potentially affect the speed of your electric wheelchair. The important thing to take away from this, is that you will need to ask questions about these things, before choosing the best electric wheelchair for you.

We hope you found this useful. If you do have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.



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