Category: Adult Powered Wheelchair

Solar Powered Wheelchair

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---- PROTOTYPE --------- PURPOSE: To create a prototype of a solar powered wheelchair with retractable panels for individuals with lower extremity or mobility disabilities, spinal cord injury, or cerebral palsy. A team of students and faculty from the University of Virginia School of Engineering created a prototype design of a solar powered wheelchair with retractable panels inspired by the idea from a man with cerebral palsy from Turkey. The Solar Powered Team (SPT) created the prototype using a Shoprider 6Runner wheelchair (see separate entry). They built a structured frame around the base of the wheelchair to hold the solar panels. Three solar panels were attached to a convertible-like structure which rotates back behind the wheelchair. Each solar panel consists of 28 cells, 6 x 3.25 inches, with a nominal open circuit of 0.5 volts. The cells were attached in a series in order to achieve 14 volts per panel with a working voltage of 12 and 14 volts. The total area covered by the panels consisted of 1638 square inches. Each cell was specified at 15 percent efficiency and under ideal conditions could theoretically generate 159 watts of power. Lightweight plexiglass instead of standard glass sheeting was used on the front surface of the solar panels to keep them light weight and increase the safety and impact resistance of the panels. The 12 and 14 volt panels are used to charge a 24 volt battery pack with a DC-DC boost converter included. The boost converter is capable of charging 24 volt battery packs with any voltage above 5 volts and also acts as a maximum power point tracker. The user can choose to charge from a standard wall outlet if he or she wishes, and the solar panels do not need to be deployed to operate the chair operate directly from battery power. The prototype uses lead-acid batteries that can store approximately 70 amps an hour of charge; however, the team recommends a cycle using 30 percent or less of the capacity of regular use or 50 percent with rare use (defined as four times or fewer per week). The lead-acid batteries were chosen due to their low cost and proven reliability. The development team believed the weight savings was not significant enough to justify the increase in cost by using a lithium ion battery. The range of the wheelchair on a full battery is approximately 4.5 hours varying by the total number of amps used. Charging the battery to full capacity after using 30 percent of its power would require approximately 3.5 hours of direct sunlight. The structural design holding the solar power hood consists of two assemblies on either side of the wheelchair, one per arm rest. A pivoting bracket controls the deployment of the solar panels. When the panels are deployed, the bracket rotates via actuators and the panels emerge from the rear towards the front. The design consists of few moving parts allowing for low-maintenance (fewer parts to break or need replacing). The prototype also offers the user a USB power source by which he or she can charge a variety of items that require less than 5 volts such as a clip fan, a small radio, cell phone, or a standalone Bluetooth device. The solar powered wheelchair was designed with safety in mind using materials and obtained by online retailers including and eBay. AUTHOR: Josie Pipkin. TITLE: U.Va. Team’s Solar-Powered Wheelchair Wins World Cerebral Palsy Day Competition. REF:


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Solar Powered Wheelchair