Upcycled Drivetrains - Used Wheelchairs

We at Tinkersmiths Makerspace love upcycling. For us it seems wasteful to purchase everything new that can be accomplished by repurposing no longer needed existing parts. We love used electric wheelchairs for many reasons such as:

  • Phenomenal Value Proposition
  • Save the Environment
  • Excellent Hi Torque Drive and Control System
  • Continue the Legacy of Those Gone on to the Land of Magic Unicorns
Upcycled Drivetrain is Used Electric Wheelchair Base
Upcycled Electric Wheelchair Base as Drivetrain. Seat and Cover Removed.
Used Electric Wheelchair Base as Drivetrain
Used Electric Wheelchair Base as Drivetrain. Fitting the Dorkpod Subfloor to Unit.
Let's go over these points in detail.


1) To build a high torque drivetrain from scratch from new parts will cost us around $800. We constantly are able to find used electric wheelchairs on Craigslist in the $250 range. Sometimes even $100 and sometimes even donated for free to us. Some of these chairs cost upwards of $7500 new. We do appreciate that we get beyond the kits and bring fully assembled units to the market that having new components that we can warranty are going to be a must. The price of those units will reflect the costs. As a Makerspace our community is based on the DIY mentality. Therefore economies of experiments and failures warrant some crafty supply chain exploration. Therefore there is great value savings in utilized used equipment and devices.


Less stuff in the landfill. Electronic circuits contain arsenic and heavy metals that can and do contaminate the earths water supply. We do appreciate buying new parts creates jobs, and do plenty of that here. However when not needed we try not to. Let's all help where we can and utilized what sits negated in our neighbors garages.


High torque worm drive electric motors can easily cost $350 a piece. You need two for a drive system to pull a human around half the day. One of these motors is more than an entire robotics or device drive train up cycled from a used electric wheelchair. Most used chairs typically still have the control circuitry along with the joystick for motion control. Typical drawback is if they have been sitting a while their batteries will no longer charge. Beware most chairs require two batteries that cost $125 each. Try to find a chair that still holds a charge when shopping. Unless the unit is sub $200 then adding the cost of the batteries still makes for an attractive weekend parts acquisition.


"Spam, its made of people!". Well maybe not our world has 8+ billion of them. For those who run a small business they know first hand how you treat people greatly dictates the success of ones path forward. This principle also applies in our personal quests. What we get out of life is at times equative to what we give. Our belief is this does not stop with life, meaning this extends beyond life. The respect you can offer those who are no longer with us also create time space ripples. By utilizing a device such as an electric wheelchair which once belonged to someone who has moved on from us, extends their memory and energies into new and fun ways. When we place call to purchase one of these device we alway offer full discloser. "Hey, just want to make sure you know we may build a robot or wacky vehicle out of this chair" has had a 100% positive response. "Bob would have so loved this. Please send me pictures when you do this to share with the family". No greater building block than people, period.

More about used wheelchairs as a drivetrain here.