In this day and age, electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters have become the assistive devices of choice for those with limited mobility. The reason behind their popularity stems from their ability to allow both seniors and disabled individuals alike to experience a degree of independence and ease of transport that was not possible before. They are investments that reap multiple benefits, such as a boost in confidence and improved quality of life.
As much as it is a revolutionary innovation, motorised wheelchairs and scooters are not immune to malfunctions and are dependent on batteries. These batteries are the lifeline that keeps your personal mobility aid (PMA) running, which is why it is vital for you to choose a suitable battery to ensure your device’s longevity. This is because selecting an incompatible battery can have an adverse impact on your power chair.
When choosing the best batteries for your personal mobility device, sealed lead-acid and lithium batteries are the top contenders. But which is the better option? In this article, we will draw comparisons between both types and help you to make an informed decision on which to go for.
Lithium batteries are great at storing energy, but they can overheat and explode easily, making them a risk to life and property. Their electrodes are submerged in an electrolyte consisting of organic solvents that can pose a fire hazard. Should the batteries be subjected to excessive heat or a poorly insulated charger, they will release toxic gases and a flammable electrolyte – resulting in a fire or explosion.
On the other hand, sealed lead-acid batteries do not face this issue. They may bloat due to long-term usage or overcharging, but they are less likely to catch fire. They can also hold their own against overcharging, as these batteries have a one-way valve designed to release excess pressure.
If your device’s battery is malfunctioning and you are looking for a replacement, lithium batteries for personal mobility aids are harder to find compared to sealed lead-acid batteries. This is because lithium batteries are custom-made to fit the particular model of your motorised wheelchair or mobility scooter, which makes it challenging to find a ready-made replacement quickly. You would have to return the battery to the original shop you got it from and request a custom-made replacement.
In contrast, the sealed lead-acid batteries used in personal mobility aids are installed in various devices and equipment, such as electric bicycles and backup power systems. The high usage and demand for sealed lead-acid batteries mean that you can find an abundance of them anywhere in Singapore. Should a battery failure occur, you can change it at any licensed dealer instantly, without having to wait days for a replacement.
Though upfront and installation costs can vary according to the size of your device’s battery system, lithium batteries are generally priced higher than sealed lead-acid batteries. The latter option can easily save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for a setup of the same size.
The performance of the battery is often a key consideration for many buyers. The more efficient a battery is, the less energy it consumes with respect to how much it discharges. In this regard, lithium batteries typically perform better than sealed lead-acid batteries as they have a higher efficiency rating. This translates to a higher travelling range for the same capacity rating.
A lithium battery also provides you with better performance from your PMA device as it consumes less energy and discharge more power. In addition, a higher energy efficiency rating means you can charge a lithium battery at a faster rate compared to its competitor.
Lithium batteries, on average, are around 55% lighter than sealed lead-acid batteries. If you travel around Singapore often in your car, you should consider looking for a lightweight, portable mobile device that is equipped with a lithium battery. This makes it less strenuous for you when you are trying to load your PMA device onto your car.
Another key factor that buyers generally consider is the longevity of their battery. In this regard, lithium batteries are more durable and last longer than sealed lead-acid batteries. However, all batteries depreciate over time and lose their effectiveness after multiple uses. Moreover, an ageing lithium battery is also a potential fire hazard. Therefore, we will recommend everyone change their lithium batteries every 2 to 3 years, even if the battery is still performing as expected.
Lithium batteries provide significant benefits for PMA device owners, as it offers more power, a longer lifespan, and convenience. However, despite these benefits, they might not be suitable for those with a lower budget. Moreover, they also pose a greater safety concern for their users. On the contrary, sealed lead-acid batteries have been in the game for longer and are renowned for their low cost, accessibility, and safety.
Both batteries offer their advantages and disadvantages, so your decision will likely come down to your needs. However, with the recent reports of PMA devices catching fire due to their batteries overheating, it may be best to place your safety as the number one priority when choosing the ideal battery for your PMA device.