SmartDrive: a power assist that allows hands-free mobility with the press of a button (on battery pack between knees) or traditional assist mode while wheeling manually.
Photos by Robert Glover
The SmartDrive motor senses and reacts to acceleration and deceleration. A push on the push rings engages the motor, which will maintain your pushing speed — faster pushes equal faster speeds, up to 4.5 mph. To slow or stop, simply put pressure on the push rims and the motor will sense the drag (deceleration) and disengage. Going up an incline or encountering carpet or grass requires an extra push. Another option for starting, increasing speed or for going up hills, across carpets or grass, is to push and hold the power button located in front of the battery pack (between your knees). The longer the button is pushed, the faster the speed. A “quick push and release” on the power button is another option to disengage the motor.
The motor pivots up and down, which enables curb drops, wheeling on rough surfaces and wheelies. The chair can still easily turn, thanks to SmartDrive’s “omni wheels” that have discs mounted around the drive-wheel circumference, perpendicular to the rolling direction.
“After 17 years as an L1 para, I was getting such bad arthritis in my hands, wrists and shoulders that I was headed for a power chair, something I never want to do,” says Mike Hall, 53, from Clarksville, Tenn. In October Hall got a SmartDrive and mounted it on his TiLite ZR. “It has taken the strain off my shoulders, wrists and hands. They feel much better, and I’m out a lot more and doing a lot more. Plus, the extra power makes it easier to balance stuff in my lap because I don’t have to lean forward to push. It has the convenience of a manual chair with the ease of a power chair.”
The SmartDrive Hall is using is a loaner. He is working on getting his workers’ comp insurance to pay for one. “If they balk at paying for it, I’ve heard that the VA is paying for them, so I may try and run it through the VA.”
Details: At press time SmartDrive was compatible with rigid frame chairs only. A battery charges in five hours, and users report they charge batteries about twice a week. Weight: Battery — 8 pounds; motor/drive-wheel — 11 pounds. Suggested retail price: $6,450
• E.fix; e.motion, Frank Mobility, 888/426-858; www.frankmobility.com
• FlexRim; www.FlexRim.com
• FreeWheel, 208/571-2051; www.gofreewheel.com
• Pivot Dual Lever Drive, Rio Mobility, 415/278-9662; www.riomobility.com/en/
• Quickie Xtender, Sunrise Medical, 800/333-4000; www.sunrisemedical.com. Click on Wheelchairs, then Power Mobility. Xtender is at the bottom of the page.
• SmartDrive, Max Mobility; www.max-mobility.com
• Surge Handrim, Out-Front; www.out-front.com/surge_overview.php
• Users First, 718/803-3782; www.usersfirst.org
• Wijit, 800/659-4548; www.wijit.com
FreeWheel: For Off-Road and Urban Wheeling