Ten years ago six-wheel power wheelchair technology caught on, and by 2005 it was the industry standard. For many of us who’ve used power mobility for several decades, we’d never seen a technology take over so fast. Sure, there were always trends in power mobility, but to see six-wheel technology catch on so quickly was astounding — and it transformed consumers’ lives. Suddenly, users realized the maneuverability that they’d been missing based on older power chair configurations, and they weren’t giving up this refined mobility.
The concept of six-wheel technology is both simple and complex. By moving a power chair’s drive wheels toward the center and adding both front and rear casters for stability, maneuverability dramatically increases. The chair almost spins like a toy top in place. However, with six wheels on the ground, “high-centering” is likely — the front and rear casters can lift the drive wheels off the ground on uneven terrain. As a result, extremely complex suspensions systems allow all six wheels to float independently, conforming to varied surfaces and climbing obstacles well.
Fortunately, with highly-evolved designs, here we are a decade later, and not only is six-wheel power chair technology here to stay, it’s more innovative than ever.
Amysystems started out making after-market power seating systems in the 1990s and evolved into six-wheel power base innovation in the 2000s. Since entering the power chair market, Amysystem’s power bases are noted by consumers as among the most durable, capable, smoothest-riding power chairs on the market. And Amysystems has consistently expanded and refined its six-wheel models, including its Alltrack R, a hybrid six-wheeler of sorts. The Alltrack R takes Amysystem’s proven six-wheel suspension system and moves the drive wheels rearward a bit. It’s not a rear-wheel or mid-wheel drive, but something in between. By moving the drive wheels rearward and adding 9-inch front casters for superior off-road use, straight-line tracking improves at up to 8.5 mph. Yet, because the Alltrack R isn’t a true rear-wheel drive, indoor maneuverability increases. There’s a legion of users who’ve spent decades in traditional rear-wheel drives but are missing out on the maneuverability of six-wheel technology, so the Alltrack R — with its Group-24 batteries and full complex rehab offerings — is a wickedly unique product for high-performance users.
The mountain man of six-wheel power chairs has been Innovation in Motion’s Frontier Series, best known for the X5 model. It has been updated, refined, and re-badged as the V6 AT model — but it’s no less aggressive. The monster low-PSI ATV drive tires, 9-inch front and rear casters, and massive suspension travel allow it to drive, climb, and crawl where other mid-wheel drives wouldn’t dare. Plus, with the new updates — including a much more stylized aesthetic — comes available full power rehab seating, so you don’t have to sacrifice clinical needs for outdoor prowess.
Going Bigger (Without Going Big)
Permobil, with over 40 years in front-wheel drive technology, surprised the market two years ago when it came out with its M300 mid-wheel six design. And to its credit, it has done exceptionally well on the market, rounded out with Permobil’s legendary seating options. Now, Permobil has taken the maneuverability and terrain handling of the M300 and created the 450-pound weight capacity M300 Corpus HD. With higher-rated suspension, a 2-inch wider base width (26 inches), ultra-high torque 5 mph motors, and wider positioning components and seating up to 25 by 25 inches, the M300 Corpus HD is truly built with the robustness for users over 300 pounds. Yes it still offers the exceptional indoor maneuverability of a mid-wheel drive design.
Quantum’s Q6 Edge has proved a leading six-wheel power base, and now it’s available in the TB3 power seating configuration. The Q6 Edge TB3 moves away from bulky, boxy power seating, and instead integrates the new TRU-Balance 3 power seating system. While the Q6 Edge TB3 offers power tilt, recline, 10-inch elevation and elevating foot platform (together or as individual features), it’s truly the form and adaptability that make it unique. The Q6 Edge TB3 seating starts with an ergonomic, user-silhouette design for improved positioning, comfort, and aesthetics. From there, all components adjust via a T-slot track system. Then, a host of accessories — cup holder, cellphone holder, backpack holder, and so on — integrates into the track system. The result is a full complex rehab power positioning system in a sleek package with user-sought accessories.
Quickie recently updated its QM710 mid-wheel drive power chair with the lowest seat-to-floor height of any elevating seat in the industry. Power elevating seats typically start at approximately 18 to 19-inch seat-to-floor heights, then elevate 10 inches from there. However, the Quickie QM710’s power elevating seat-to-floor height starts at 16 inches, then elevates 12 inches. The result is that you can fit under tables while still having a fully elevating seat. A black tire package is now available, as are 15 shroud colors.
Redman has been building standing power chairs for two decades, with the new Chief 107 ZRX its most compact model to date. The Chief’s power base features one of the narrowest mid-wheel bases on the market, with a remarkably short wheel base and an overall width of 23 inches. On top of the 6 mph power base (optional to 9 mph), the power seating system features recline, elevating leg rests, prone position, and standing. Naturally, it’s the standing feature that garners most attention, especially since in the standing mode, the batteries shift rearward, counterbalancing the system to allow driving while standing. A host of options, including an off-road package, are also available.
Indeed, six-wheel power chairs offer more choices than ever. In shopping for a new power chair, demo at least three, and determine which features are most important to you. While six-wheel power chairs may be similar in concept from model to model, performance and features can vary. Give them a twirl — literally — and see which best meets your needs.
• Amysystems – www.amysystems.com, 888/453-0311
• Innovation in Motion – www.mobility-usa.com, 800/327-0681
• Permobil – www.permobilus.com, 800/736-0925
• Quantum – www.quantumrehab.com, 800/800-8586
• Quickie – www.sunrisemedical.com, 800/333-4400
• Redman – www.redmanpowerchair.com, 800/727-6684