The 3 Best Lightweight Electric Wheelchairs

For those with disabilities, freedom or lack thereof can be life changing. For disabilities that prevent the use of manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs can offer a solution to get you back out and about.

There are many portable, lightweight electric wheelchairs that can easily be taken in your car or on airplanes. Based on your size and needs, an electric wheelchair should meet your specific requirements.

Electric Wheelchair Considerations Based on Disability

Pain

  1. Many people with painful disorders like muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis (MS) need to feel comfortable in their wheelchair for long periods of time. The wheelchair needs to be large enough that any potentially painful pressure points can be padded without preventing the user from changing sitting positions.
  2. Bumps can also be extremely uncomfortable without proper wheelchair suspension. Not every electric wheelchair comes with shock absorbers, so be sure to ask that question before purchase.
  3. Most electric wheelchairs are adjustable to some extent, but some adjustments, like a reclining back, do not come standard on many models.

Physical Ability

  1. If you have limited strength and/or hypoxia, the electric wheelchair can move you around, but can you move it around? With heavy chairs you may need a car lift to load it, but there are lightweight electric wheelchair options that can allow you or a loved one to load it independently.
  2. Make sure you can get in and out of the chair easily as well. Some options have side entry or a footrest that might make front entry more difficult.

Recovery or Decline?

  1. Hopefully the electric wheelchair will last you for years, so make sure that you consider the future. Those recovering from a disease or accident will be fine with a chair that accommodates their needs right now, but for the elderly and those with progressive disorders, think about what they will need in 3 years. For example, how difficult will it be for them to load the wheelchair into a car?

Electric Wheelchair or Electric Mobility Scooter?

Electric mobility scooter are similar to electric wheelchairs, but they do not accommodate disabilities and limitations to the same extent as wheelchairs. Mobility scooters have a steering wheel and assume that the user can stand and walk unaided for at least short distances. If you think that a mobility scooter may be more suitable for your needs, check out our review of the best electric mobility scooters for adults.

Electric Wheelchairs and Medicare

Medicare may cover some of the costs associated with purchasing an electric wheelchair or electric mobility scooter. For more information, see this information on Medicare’s wheelchair and scooter benefits.

Electric Wheelchairs for Sale

PW 999UL

The PW 999UL is a compact, lightweight electric wheelchair that works well for flat surfaces and traveling. It has a good range, can fit in even small cars, and is one of the most popular models on the market.

Specs

  • Weight: 20.5kg (45 lbs)
  • Max Speed: 6.5 km/hr (4 miles/hr)
  • Maximum Capacity: 100kg (220 lbs)
  • Seat Dimensions (W x L): 45 x 42 cm (17.7 x 16.5”)
  • Turning Radius: 75cm (29.5”)
  • Folded Size (L x H x W): 30 x 71 x 60 cm (11.8” x 28” x 23.6”)
  • Max Distance:
    • 1 battery: ~13km (8 miles)
    • 2 batteries: ~26km (~16 miles)
    • (15% less in cold weather)
  • Charge Time (for 1 battery): 4 hours
  • Slope Capability: 13˚
  • Motor Power: 150W x 2

NOTE: For full specifications see here.

Pros

  1. Lightweight
    1. At 45 lbs, this is one of the most lightweight electric wheelchairs on the market.
  2. Foldable
    1. No breakdown is required since the chair easily folds down on itself.
  3. Portable
    1. It comes with a soft carrying case and can be pulled around like airport luggage.
  4. Second battery
    1. Although it only comes with one battery, a second can be purchased separately.
  5. Extendable footrest
    1. The footrest can be extended 4 inches, and it folds up out of the way for easy front access.
  6. Airplane ready
    1. Some airlines may require the batteries to be taken out and put in carry on, but many allow the wheelchair to be checked at then airplane like a stroller.

Cons

  1. Poor traction
    1. On relatively slick surfaces like damp wood, the wheels will spin.
  2. Awkward to push
    1. The chair can be pushed from the back, but the wheelchair does not lock open. It is easy to push the back of the chair forward into the occupant.
  3. Does poorly on uneven terrain
    1. Small wheels make it difficult to use off road.
  4. Customer service is good until they make the sale. It may be hard to get help once you purchase the wheelchair.

Notes

  1. This model is compact and may not be suitable for people over 6 ft tall.
  2. Wheelchair88 is a Malaysian company, and their electric wheelchairs are made in and ship from Malaysia.
  3. Do not purchase directly through wheelchair88.com or from other 3rd party websites because other users have occasionally reported problems caused by importing these electric wheelchairs from Malaysia. Purchasing through Amazon allows you to rely on Amazon’s arbitration system to settle any disputes which can save a huge hassle if anything goes wrong.

Owners

See how other owners with specific disabilities rated this wheelchair.

  1. Progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) – Excellent!
  2. Hemiplegic – Excellent!

Additional Resources

User Manual

PW 1000XL

The PW 1000XL is a more rugged version of the PW 999UL that gives the user more power, range, and comfort without sacrificing its portability. It works well for use outdoors, on grass, or traveling long distances.

Specs

  • Weight: 26 kg (57 lbs)
  • Max Speed: 8 kph ( 5 mph)
  • Max Capacity: 150 kg (330 lbs)
  • Seat Dimensions: 48.25 x 45.5 cm (19 x 18”)
  • Folded Size (L x H x W) 36 x 67 x 60 cm (14.2 x 26.4 x 23.6”)
  • Turning Radius 80cm (31.5”)
  • Max Distance:
    • 1 battery: ~13 km (8 mi)
    • 2 batteries: ~26 km (16 mi)
    • 3 batteries: ~39km (24 mi)
  • Charge Time (for 1 battery): 4 hours
  • Slope Capability (with anti-tilt support): 13˚
  • Motor Power    250W x 2 units

NOTE: For full specifications see here.

Pros

  1. Lightweight
    1. Despite power and carrying capacity upgrades, it is only 12 lbs heavier than the PW 999UL model.
  2. Powerful
    1. 999UL motors: 150 W x2
    2. 1000XL motors: 250 W x2
  3. Upgradeable battery
    1. The base unit comes with 1 lithium ion battery, but it can use up to 3 batteries to extend the max range.
  4. Foldable
    1. The chair easily folds down on itself into a compact bundle.
  5. Airplane ready
    1. Just like the 999UL, this can be checked on an airplane, although, some flights may require you to remove the batteries and take them as carry-on.
  6. Suspension
    1. 4 spring suspension makes this wheelchair a comfortable option for bumpy terrain.

Cons

  1. Other users commented that Wheelchair88’s customer service is very good until the purchase is made, then it is non-existent. For that reason, we recommend purchasing through Amazon, so that you can use Amazon’s arbitration system to settle disputes if anything goes wrong.

Notes

  1. Wheelchair88 is a Malaysian company. Their electric wheelchairs are manufactured in and shipped from Malaysia.
  2. Those 6’2” and taller may not be comfortable with the size of the chair.
  3. The weight limit is usually less of a problem than the size of the seat. If you are close to the weight limit for the wheelchair measure the width of your hips and compare it to the width of the seat. Add 1 inch on either side to account for clothing and wiggle room.

Owners

See how other owners with specific disabilities rated this wheelchair.

  1. Fibromyalgia – Unusable due to pain
  2. Hypoxia and Weakness – Excellent!

Additional Resources

User Manual

Drive Medical Cirrus Plus

This electric wheelchair is a solid, comfortable option made by a trusted American brand, Drive Medical. It comes in several different sizes to accommodate a wide range of body shapes and heights.

Specs

  • Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Top Speed: 5 mph
  • Max Range: 15 mi
  • Turning Radius: 30" | 32" | 33"
  • Climbing Angle 6°
  • Ground Clearance: 4"
  • Motors (2): 24V x 320W x 4600 rpm
  • Batteries (2): 12V x 36AH (U1)
  • Total Weight: 146 lbs

NOTE: For a full list of specifications see here.

Pros

  1. 2 year warranty
    1. The electronics and drive train come with a 2 year warranty, the batteries come with a 1 year warranty, and the frame comes with a lifetime warranty.
  2. 3 sizes
    1. Choose between 3 sizes of wheelchair depending on your size.
  3. Trusted American Brand
    1. Drive Medical is a well-respected brand that also produces some of the most popular mobility scooters on the market.
  4. Collapsible
    1. This wheelchair folds together to fit in even small cars.
  5. Comfortable
    1. Good for those who need a comfortable chair for long durations at a time.
  6. Powerful
    1. Handles grass and uneven surfaces easily.

Cons

  1. Heavy
    1. In order to transport this wheelchair in a car, you need a lift or a strong person to break it down and lift it into the car. At 151 lbs it is about 3 times heavier than the 999UL or the 1000XL.

Notes

  1. The lead acid batteries will never need to be taken as carry-on aboard an airplane like lithium ion batteries, however, due to the weight it may incur extra baggage fees traveling by airplane.

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About Peter Oldani - Author of Inside First Aid

About the author

Peter Oldani graduated college with a B.S. in biomedical engineering, worked as an EMT to gain hands on experience in emergency medicine and completed active shooter training as part of New York State’s initiative to prepare civilian organizations for disaster response.