The origins of the mobility scooter date back to 1968, when the first power-operated scooter was developed by Michigan-based plumber Allan R. Thieme. Aptly named ‘The Amigo’ or the ‘friendly wheelchair’, the scooter was designed to aid a family member with multiple sclerosis and travelled at a steady 3-4 miles per hour.
At the time, such a vehicle was considered revolutionary, but in today’s modern market the wide variety of mobility scooters now available – ranging from small (class 2) models to large road-legal scooters (class 3) – means there are many factors to take into account before selecting a mobility scooter to meet your exact needs.
Small (class 2) scooters can be used on all pavements and footpaths, as well as in the home, but they are not permitted on the UK’s roads. A lighter frame makes class 2 variants easy to transport and store, making them ideal for accessible holidays. For example, most small scooters can be dismantled into fewer parts and stored in a car boot. The lightweight structure does mean that they have a lower maximum weight capacity (usually 21 stone/135kg) and have a smaller average range of travel before they need charging. A small scooter, for instance, can usually cover a maximum of around 10 miles before charging is required.
Class 3 mobility scooters are larger vehicles designed for travelling longer distances and negotiating rougher surfaces. A greater battery range, means they can travel further between charging, usually up to 25 or 30 miles.
Capable of speeds of speeds up to 8mph, class 3 scooters are fully road legal if they have the correct road tax (provided free of charge by the DVLA). This does, however, come with restrictions. For example, class 3 scooters are not allowed on motorways, bicycle tracks or in bus or cycle lanes, but are legally allowed on dual carriageways. Whilst, to be considered a class 3 vehicle, scooters must have a horn, headlights, rear lights and indicators, as well as a rear-view mirror and emergency hand brakes.