Complex rehab power chairs are fantastic when it comes to performance and comfort, from suspension to power seating. However, among their biggest limitations is transportability. Traveling with a power chair can be challenging. However, all is not lost. There is a new generation of very affordable portable power chairs that can serve as secondary travel mobility options for even those who typically use complex rehab power chairs.
Redefining the WHILL
WHILL burst into the mobility market several years ago with the Model A, followed by the more funding-compliant Model M. What made the WHILL line unique was its avant-garde look and its use of omni wheels on the front, giving it remarkable maneuverability for a rear-wheel drive, full-size power chair. What held it back was its lack of features found on complex rehab power chairs, and a staggeringly high base price. Fortunately, the WHILL team recognized its successes and shortcomings and dramatically changed its approach. The result is the Model Ci, which hits a market sweet spot.
The Model Ci’s patented front omni wheels give the distinct advantage of eliminating swiveling casters. This allows the use of a larger wheel without interfering with the user’s foot placement. It also allows for extraordinary maneuverability. The Model Ci is about the length of a compact scooter, but due to the omni wheels, it turns in half of the space needed by a travel scooter. This maneuverability is among the biggest benefits of the unit.
From there, WHILL departed from its prior platform and made a slimline design that is sleek and portable. A simple but supportive seat with joystick and controls integrated into the armrests provides meaningful positioning for most users — at least for part time use. As for portability, the frame quickly disassembles into three separate pieces, easily fitting into a taxi’s trunk. Speeds up to 5 mph and a range of 10 miles are powered by a 10Ah lithium-ion battery.
Among the most groundbreaking features of the Model Ci is its Bluetooth connectivity with an iPhone. The app not only displays all of the chair’s data, but also allows driving it via your phone remotely, so you can fetch it from across the room or wherever it may be, within reason.
The Model Ci has a MSRP of a mere $3,999, available through SpinLife.com and other online mobility retailers. That’s a lot of product for the money. So, how do they do it so cost-effectively? The answer is, although it’s marketed to wheelchair users, they make it clear that it’s a “personal electric vehicle” that hasn’t been submitted or tested as an FDA-regulated medical device. With WHILL’s exceptional reputation, this shouldn’t be a deterrent to the buyer, but it certainly has reduced the design and manufacturing costs dramatically. In all, it’s a fantastic portable power chair at a reasonable price.
Your Power Chair Passport
A ton of inexpensive folding power chairs have been sold on the internet in recent years, mostly imported from China. All look ultralight and remarkably easy to fold, but quality and support have been questionable. Now Pride Mobility Products has entered the market with its Jazzy Passport.
The complete Jazzy Passport weighs in at a scant 53 pounds, offering true portability. The key to this is how it folds. While the Jazzy Passport looks somewhat traditional as a rear-wheel-drive power chair, the folding mechanism is a showstopper. With the release of a single latch, you simply push forward on the backrest with one hand and the whole chair folds to the ground flat, like a lawn chair. To unfold it, you simply pull up on the backrest and it unfolds. Unlike other products in its class, nothing must be removed from the chair, and it stays in one piece. It literally can be folded and stored in a trunk in under a minute.
The seating is a traditional sling, and with its armrests and high backrest, along with slight seat dump, it’s quite supportive. A rehab cushion is easily fitted as well.
The Jazzy Passport carries an airline-approved 18Ah lithium-ion battery, delivering a 9.6-mile range, with a top speed of 3.6 mph. A PG controller combined with high-torque motors delivers impressive performance and handling.
The Jazzy Passport’s best attributes may be that it’s among the few in its class that meets ANSI/RESNA power chair standards. This means although its performance may be less than a full complex rehab power chair, its durability and safety meet the same standards.
With an MSRP of $2,899 but sold online on discount sites for $1,999, the Jazzy Passport is an affordable way to get into a true travel power chair, and be comfortable with knowing it has the quality and service it should.
Editor: NEW MOBILITY’s policy is to disclose author-product relationships when appropriate. Accordingly, Mark E. Smith is the general manager of public relations for Pride Mobility/Quantum Rehab.
KD Smart Chair
WHILL and Jazzy have elevated the portable power chair market with these new offerings, but they didn’t invent the field. In our April 2016 issue, Mark Smith reported on the KD Smart Chair:
The key to the 50-pound KD Smart Chair is its integration of state-of-the-art technology to create a balance of portability without sacrificing performance. The power chair begins with an ultralight aluminum frame that folds like a lawn chair. From there, an impressively supportive integrated seat — which accepts a rehab cushion — and a supportive footplate provide meaningful positioning for a range of needs. … Instead of heavy, conventional batteries, it uses 10 amp-hour lithium ion battery technology, offering compact, ultralight power up to 15 miles. To complement the lithium ion technology, small but powerful brushless motors are used on the drive wheels, allowing impressive torque and a top speed of 5 mph.
There are two models available, the Standard and the HD. The standard is 50 pounds with the battery and is 13-by-23.2-by-29.5 inches and a 16.75-by- 15.25 inch seat. The HD is 59.6 pounds with the battery and is 33-by-25.75-by-16.75 inches when folded, with a 17-by-17 inch seat. Pre-owned Smart Chairs start at $1,600 through the company’s website, kdsmartchair.com; new models start at $1,995.