The battery experiment

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I’ve been going through a semi-forced experiment with my wheelchair batteries. They’re acting weirdly. I have always wondered what it would be like to run them out completely. The bad news is that it’s possible to render the batteries practically useless but the good news is that it’s almost impossible to run them out completely.

Last summer I went to Chicago to visit a friend of mine. My batteries fared well for a while but started running out quickly as we made our way to the Art Institute. Long story short, I had to beg to plug myself in and then only got 20 minutes of charge time. I’ll save the long story for another time. However, cut to my friend pushing me up Michigan Avenue to my hotel and me pushing her baby stroller in front of me. It must have been quite a sight.

But what I discovered is that if I let the batteries sit for a minute or two, I could get a few dozen feet of movement out of the chair before it’d stop again. I got new batteries, but now here I am almost a year later and this pair has started acting oddly too. The power gauge will go up and down like a spring. I can turn it off and back on again and the gauge goes from one blinking line to six lines. Then it goes back down quickly.

Needless to say, I need new batteries. While I wait for the paperwork to go through on those, however, I am noticing how having weak batteries really affects my decisions — from regular daily things like errands to fun things like going to the zoo with family. I have to optimize my errands and if I go out somewhere there will be a lot of rolling, I have to take my charger along.

So what I’m realizing is that although I would prefer to have batteries that last forever without charging, I am pleased that normal wheelchair batteries can actually get me through a day or two when they’re working correctly. It sure beats having to charge up two or three times a day. Could you imagine that? The other thing I’m less freaked out about now than I used to be is that worry of getting stuck in my house and my batteries are dead. I know now that if need be, I can wait for them to recharge a little on their own and at least get myself to a charger!

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