Traditional electric wheelchairs often limit user’s mobility because of the amount of time it takes to recharge the battery.
"Conventional wheelchairs, they are mostly charged overnight," said Zeljko Pantic, a professor in electrical and computer engineering at Utah State University. "90 percent of users, they charge overnight which includes 8-hour charging. Then they get a day or two of energy in their batteries, but if they are more active during the day, it may happen that they run out of energy in their batteries in late afternoon."
Pantic and Calvin Coopmans, also a professor in the same department at USU, have designed a wireless wheelchair charging pad.
"Wireless charging is one of the key concepts of this invention," Pantic said. "We designed an active pad, which is very thin, looks like a floor mat. It’s laid on the floor and it has a large number of cords integrated, and a large number of electronics integrated inside. When the chair is above that and positioned on that pad, what happens is that electronics inside recognize the position of the wheelchair and when charging is requested by the user, it starts delivering an energy from the pad in a wireless manner."
Wheelchair users can simply drive their wheelchair onto this wireless charging pad. Coopmans says that one of the breakthroughs of the invention is that via an app users can instruct their wheelchair to go charge itself.
"And we’ve also been working on some higher level intelligence when you can pull your phone out and say, 'OK wheelchair, go find the pad and charge yourself.' And then you don’t even need to be in the chair to charge it, which gives you even more freedom," Coopmans said. "And for a certain class of wheelchair users this means that they might be able to totally manage their wheelchair by themselves and not need a minder to just find the cord and plug it in . . . and so it could really free up some wheelchair users lives."
Interested electric wheelchair users can contact the Utah State University College of Engineering.