CRT Technology Showcase

Powerful Ally: Alber Launches the e-motion M25

At a time when the power-assist segment seems to be breaking through, Alber has launched the e-motion M25, the next generation of the venerable M15. The M25 is the latest addition to Alber’s increasingly robust and technologically intriguing power-assist family.

emotion M25“Lighter, Faster, Smarter, Stronger”

Power assist has long been a wheeled mobility niche of products called upon to help ultralightweight wheelchair users beset with shoulder, arm, wrist, or hand pain, often after decades of self-propelling. But now, power assist is being redefined as proactive, customizable technology in its own right… and Alber’s latest launch lives up to that revolutionary thinking.

Bill Russell, Director of Sales for Alber, described the M25 as “lighter, faster, smarter, stronger” compared to its predecessor. “The M15 was actually a 12-year-old product; it came out in 2008,” he noted. “In the last 12 years, technology has advanced so far and so fast.”

With ultralights, weight is always a concern. “With today’s systems that are lighter than what e-motion was, we definitely wanted to address the wheel weight,” Russell said. “Going from a 23-lb. wheel [with the M15] to a 17-lb. wheel [in the M25] was a huge gain. And the only way we did what was through technology: being able to make the copper coil inside the wheel lighter and smaller and more compact, so that all adds up to the lightness of the wheel.”

Other changes, Russell said, came from industry input. He cited clinicians and suppliers who over the years have told him, “I’ve got a patient who’s 320 lbs.”

“In the past, we’ve had to pass on those,” Russell acknowledged. “We weren’t able to support those weights. So we wanted to make [the M25] stronger and have a higher weight capacity on it.” The M25’s user weight capacity is 330 lbs.

Alber also wanted to accommodate end users’ need for speed. “There’s a certain segment of that market that 3.7 mph just wasn’t fast enough for them,” Russell said, citing the M15’s top speed. “They wanted to go a little bit faster. That’s where we came up with the ability to increase it for the people that wanted it.” Consumers can upgrade to the M25’s Mobility Plus package, with its top speed of 5.3 mph. And the M25 offers a longer range, up to 15.5 miles on a single charge.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

The M25 is smarter thanks to collaborative use of technology to reach new heights of customizability, said Mike Salvi, Director of Manual Mobility & Seating for Invacare Corp., which owns Alber.

“Smartphone technology has allowed us to take advantage of the technology on the e-motion and provide a lot of different features that are really pretty slick,” Salvi said. “One of them is the roll-back delay.”

Controlling the roll can be notoriously difficult on slopes — but the M25 can help. “When somebody’s going up a hill and they have to reposition or just take a second to catch their breath, roll-back delay is a feature that the M25 has,” Salvi explained. “It gives them up to five seconds of a break to reposition [their hands]. And it’s got assisted breaking downhill: We’ve all seen that moment where you’re going downhill and you get a little scared. The M25 is smart enough to be able to help with that downhill.”

Some of the M25’s app-related abilities sound straight out of the next century. “Let’s say the chair’s on the other side of the room or you want to move it into your van,” Salvi said. “You don’t have to be in your chair to do it. You can actually use the smartphone app like a remote control to move the chair where you want it and put it into the van or bring it to you with the app.”

“The smartphone app also gives the user options that they didn’t have before,” Russell added. “Before, you could have a set of wheels with no ECS [Ergonomic Control System] or an ECS handheld [remote control]. Now you have many more options by going to an app, and you don’t have to carry along an additional piece of equipment to operate the system. It can all be done from your smartphone.”

Fitting More Consumers

Superb adjustability and customizability make the M25 a potential fit for a larger range of consumers. For example, the M25 is available in 22", 24" and 25" wheel sizes. “The 25" wheel size has become pretty popular with some manufacturers,” Russell said. “So if there are a lot of 25" wheels out there, we need to have an e-motion wheel that will match up.”

The M25’s cruise control feature enables users to push their wheels once, then coast at the same speed — helpful especially for longer distances. Wheels are available in four pushrim coatings for more efficient contact and gripping for consumers with limited hand function. Pushrim sensors can be adjusted to adapt to strength imbalances on the left or right side, and users can choose from four driving profiles that adjust the power, speed and responsiveness of the M25. Plus, each drive profile has two assistance levels for indoor or outdoor use to provide additional customizability.

“For anyone with a progressive [condition] who is going to have changes in strength or function over a period of time,” Russell said, “the e-motion is the product for them because you have the adjustability of the sensor. You have programmability within the system, so as they change, the system can change. If you have a system where one size fits all, that system may no longer be appropriate for their needs. So e-motion can constantly change as their needs change.”

Power (Assist) to the People

The M25 is just one of Alber’s current power-assist offerings (see the Power Play story on page 10).

“In the early days of the Ford Model T, you could get any color as long as you picked black,” Salvi said. “It’s a metaphor for what power assist used to be. In the early days, there wasn’t much choice for the end user, but there’s been a lot of innovation in the last decade.

“Different users have different needs, and you don’t want to just shove them into a power assist that doesn’t meet those needs. What we’ve done is create a portfolio that says, you have choices. With the therapist and the ATP and our team, we work together to make sure everybody is getting the power assist that makes the most sense for them.”

This article originally appeared in the May/Jun 2021 issue of Mobility Management.

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