The Building Blocks For Outdoor Mobility Scooters
Mobility scooters are designed to assist those who have difficulty walking with the tasks and opportunities associated with daily living. They can be designed for indoor or outdoor use, with some models being middle of the road and designed to accommodate both indoor and outdoor use. However, there are particular construction and user needs that have to be met in order for a mobility scooter to perform outdoors at optimum levels. A good portion of what is necessary for mobility scooters to be more effective and comfortable for the rider outdoors lies within the construction and design of the base unit.
Base units are the bodies of mobility scooters and are often referred to as a platform or base plate. Typically, base units consist of a frame constructed of aluminum, steel or composite materials with a composite or fiberglass floor to support the seat, feet, battery and tiller, also known as the steering column. Base units also include the mobility scooter’s drive train. The mobility scooter’s maneuverability and its suitability for indoor or outdoor use in large part depends upon the characteristics of the base unit such as its turning radius, the size of its wheelbase, its ground clearance, and its overall dimensions.
It is important to evaluate the base for safety features, including its overall stability. A scooter should not tip easily during sharp turns or while climbing a curb. Anti-tip wheels should be included as part of the frame to help support and stabilize the scooter. Most rear wheel drive mobility scooters are intended to negotiate more rugged terrain and are usually equipped with rear anti-tips to support the scooter on hills.
The drive train is a critical part of the base unit and provides either front or rear wheel drive for the mobility scooter. Front-wheel drive is usually found on smaller scooters designed primarily to be used indoors or outdoors on flat, paved surfaces. The motor of the front wheel drive scooter is located over the front wheels and drives only those wheels. Because of the motor and wheel configuration, front wheel drive mobility scooters usually do not have chains or belts and are powered by smaller motors. The front wheels pull the weight of the rider and the scooter making them less capable of handling steep inclines, climbing curbs and managing rough terrain.
Rear wheel drive mobility scooters are powered by motors connected to the rear axle, either via a chain, a belt, a transaxle unit, or a combination of these components. Because the mobility scooter is driven by the rear wheels, they push the combined weight of the unit and the rider, rather than pull it like the front wheel drive models. The combined weight of the rider, the motor, and the batteries over the rear wheels, generally create better traction than that is usually provided by front-wheel drive models. The increased traction combined with the more powerful motors used on rear-wheel drive scooters results in better climbing ability. Rear-wheel-drive scooters also have a greater maximum speed, a longer traveling range between battery charges, and a larger rider weight capacity. These mobility scooters have a wider wheel base and a greater overall length, making some models less maneuverable and unsuitable for indoor use.