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What are Wheelchair Batteries?

By Kay Paddock
Updated Feb 23, 2024
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Rechargeable wheelchair batteries look like small car batteries. They provide power for power wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Power chairs require a certain size and type of battery. Many of the batteries are interchangeable between chairs and brands, which makes shopping for them easier. There are three basic types of wheelchair batteries, each requiring a specific type of charger: wet cell, gel, and AGM batteries.

Wet cell batteries are the least expensive because they use an old technology. The casing contains sulphuric acid and lead that create a chemical reaction to provide an electric charge. Distilled water can leak from these batteries if they're damaged, so airlines will remove them from a motorized wheelchair. They will be placed in a special container and transported separately from the chair.

Gel batteries, often called sealed batteries, also contain sulphuric acid, but the water in the battery is turned into gel by phosphoric acid. Damaged batteries of this type are less prone to leakage. Some airlines will leave these batteries attached to a power wheelchair. Gel wheelchair batteries are heavier than other types and cost more than wet cell models.

The third type of battery is a fairly new technology that uses an absorbent glass mat that contains electrolytes, giving the battery the name AGM. These wheelchair batteries can't leak because there is no liquid or gel inside them. They are also sealed, like gel batteries, but cost about three times more.

Most power wheelchairs can use any type of battery as long as it is the right size. There aren't usually things like special sports wheelchair batteries or beach wheelchair batteries. This is convenient for people who use a standard motorized wheelchair in addition to a specialty model, like a beach or rough terrain chair. The battery is interchangeable between devices, so there is no need to purchase different chargers or batteries.

Some wheelchair accessories that aren't absolute necessities are still good to have on hand. An extra battery charger, for instance, is handy during travel in case the original one is lost in transit. Sometimes wheelchair parts have to be removed for transport, and occasionally an airline will lose pieces. An extra charger helps ensure that a wheelchair will always be available to use.

A travel charger that will allow wheelchair batteries to charge from a car battery can be a useful addition for someone who travels, as well. Wheelchair batteries shouldn't be left run down for more than a day or two, so ensuring a charger is always available is a good way to keep a power wheelchair in good working order.

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