Clinical Corner first addressed electric mobility scooters in Scooters: The Essentials of What You Need to Know. With spring emerging in many parts of Canada after a long winter, and with summer just around the corner, it is a good time to revisit electric scooters as the promise of good weather often leads us to think about outdoor mobility.
This month, let's continue our look at what differentiates models of scooters, even amongst those from the same manufacturer. Size of the scooter is an obvious differentiating feature. Some scooters are designed to be compact for travel, while others are designed for indoor and outdoor use. The length of the scooter will affect the turning radius and maneuverability of the scooter, with a longer scooter having a larger turning radius and less maneuverability than a smaller scooter. The benefit of a longer wheelbase over a shorter wheelbase is a smoother ride. Other features that add to a smooth ride are larger wheels and pneumatic (air-filled) tires. Foam-filled tires have the benefit of being flat-free; however, the ride will not be as smooth as a pneumatic-tire. A suspension system will also add to the smoothness of the ride.
Other differentiating features between models of scooters are the maximum speed available and the maximum potential range. Having the possibility of higher maximum speed may be important for individuals driving scooters outdoors. The potential range is the distance the scooter will travel on a given battery charge. There are many things that affect the actual range, such as weight of the individual, driving patterns and terrain. In general, if a scooter has a choice of battery sizes, larger capacity batteries will offer greater range.
Scooters also vary in their weight capacities. Therefore, it is important to know the maximum user weight of the scooter, particularly if an individual is approaching the maximum weight capacity of a particular model. Another model may be a safer choice.
For individuals driving scooters in hilly terrains or up ramps, it is important to look at the maximum safe slope, or the incline rating, of the scooter. The maximum safe slope is the angle of incline that the motor can push the scooter up a slope while all wheels remain on the ground. It is the angle that has been found and proven to be safe for stability. (There will be more on stability of mobility devices in a future Clinical Corner article.) Some scooters will have active anti-tippers at the rear of the scooter to help prevent the scooter from tipping backwards if the individual drives up a slope that is too steep for the scooter. Some anti-tippers have the ability to move up as the individual drives over obstacles while still helping to keep the wheels connected to the ground when going up slopes.
If all of the features between scooters are comparable for an individual, the deciding factors may come down to colour choices and size of the included basket. Choices in options and accessories may help an individual to select one model over another, after performance and safety issues have been addressed.
There will never be one scooter that is right for everyone; however, with diligent research, therapists can assist individuals to find scooters that are right for their needs. Being aware of various models of scooters and their differentiating features can help to ensure an optimal match is made between the individual, the environment, and the mobility device.