Q: Can I safely charge my power wheelchair abroad? What are the power voltages in other countries?
Traveling abroad with a power wheelchair requires awareness of the differences in power voltage and frequency used in the country you are visiting. Wall outlets in the United States provide power at 120 volts (60 Hz) and accept type A and B cables/plugs.
What is visible abroad are the differences in the cables/plugs -- they look different from those used in America. Plug adapters are readily available and the vast majority of hotels loan them to their hotel guests. Plug adapters allow you to connect a device to a wall outlet, but do not correct the underlying differences of voltage and frequency.
Plugging a 120V American appliance such as a hair dryer or power wheelchair into a 240V power source can be dangerous. Smoke, fire and explosion could all result from this contact. For the power wheelchair user, any of these reactions would leave the wheelchair or its off-board charging unit inoperable.
While many U.S. hotel chains provide a 120V outlet in their foreign hotel rooms, this is never a guarantee. You can check with your hotel in advance, but you should ask to speak to the hotel's technician.
If traveling with a power wheelchair or scooter, it is wise to plan for a 120V outlet to not be available. There are two options for safely connecting your 120V wheelchair to a 220V-250V outlet: converters and transformers.
A voltage converter is an affordable tool which splits the current. These are small devices, usually no larger than a standard power surge protector. In purchasing a converter, be sure to verify that its wattage range supports the rating of your wheelchair or device. I don't have a lot of faith in these devices, and recommend you choose option two.
The second and more expensive option is the transformer. Transformers can either step-up or step-down the power current, making it safe to use for your devices. As an example, Americans traveling to the United Kingdom can use the transformer to step down the U.K's higher power voltage. Transformers are significantly larger than voltage converters, but are safer and more reliable. A typical transformer weighs at least 10 pounds.
If you want to travel with complete peace of mind, purchase the power conversion equipment I use during my own trips with an electric wheelchair. As an honest disclosure, I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase through one of these links (at no cost to you). 🙂
Power outlet/Plug adapter: LOOP World Adapter Plug with USB Ports & Universal AC Socket
Voltage Transformer: Rockstone Power 500 Watt Step-Up/Step-Down Voltage Transformer with AC & USB Ports