Mechanical efficiency and user power requirement with a pushrim activated power assisted wheelchair

J Arva, S G Fitzgerald, R A Cooper, M L Boninger
Medical Engineering & Physics 2001, 23 (10): 699-705
The objective of this study was to quantify the difference in mechanical efficiency and user power generation between traditional manual wheelchairs and a pushrim activated power assisted wheelchair (PAPAW). Ten manual wheelchair users were evaluated in a repeated measures design trial with and without the PAPAW for propulsion efficiency. Subjects propelled a Quickie GP equipped with the PAPAW and their own chair on a computer controlled wheelchair dynamometer at five different resistance levels. Power output, user power with the PAPAW hubs, subjects' oxygen consumption per minute and mechanical efficiency were analyzed. Metabolic energy and user power were significantly lower (p<0.05), and mechanical efficiency significantly higher with the PAPAW than with subjects' own chairs. Subjects needed to generate on average 3.65 times more power when propelling their own wheelchairs as compared to PAPAW. Mean mechanical efficiency over all trials was 80.33% higher with the power assisted hubs. PAPAW provides on average 73% of the total power when subjects propel with power assistance. Significantly increased efficiency and reduced requirement of user power is achieved using the PAPAW. With use, the PAPAW may contribute to delaying secondary injuries of manual wheelchair users. In addition, it may be suitable for people who have (or at risk for) upper extremity joint degeneration, reduced exercise capacity, low strength or endurance who currently use electric powered wheelchairs.

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