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U.S. Government Agency Declares Hoverboards Unsafe


IT’S GENERALLY HEALTHY to think in shades of grey; things are rarely either all good or all bad. Except, it turns out, hoverboards, which the Consumer Product Safety Commission has officially warned are unsafe. All of them. For now, anyway.

The CPSC letter, addressed to the “manufacturers, importers, and retailers of self-balancing scooters,” urges those involved parties to make sure their devices meet the standards established by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a group that certifies thousands of products as safe for human use. Failure to comply will result in rigorous action.

“Should the staff encounter such products at import, we may seek detention and/or seizure. In addition, if we do encounter such products domestically, we may seek a recall of these products,” writes CPSC’s Robert Howell in the letter.

It’s a helpful way to separate the dangerous hoverboards from the safe ones. Or would, be, anyway, in a world in which hoverboards of every stripe didn’t keep catching on fire.


“No hoverboard has passed the certification process at this time,” says John Drengenberg, UL’s Consumer Safety Director. That’s right! None. Zero. Zilch. There’s not a single hoverboard being sold today that has a safety seal of approval.In fairness, that doesn’t mean there won’t be one soon. Drengenberg says that the hoverboard testing process generally takes about two weeks, and the new standards were introduced not quite three weeks ago, on February 2. It also means, though, that there’s been enough time for a device to make it out of UL’s labs with a clean bill of health. None has.

As for what’s going wrong? The well-publicized fires should be a good hint.

There’s not a single hoverboard being sold today that has a safety seal of approval.

“One of the most common problems when a test is failed is what we call the ‘temperature test.’ That’s nothing more than operating the product under certain standards specifications and seeing how hot the various components inside gets,” says Drengenberg. “It’s one of the more common failure modes that a manufacturer might see.”

As failures go, it’s an significant one. Drengenberg says that if the wires, motor, battery, or any other components overheat, it might lack strong enough insulation to keep the construction materials from softening or failing. Or, in extreme but plausible cases, burning.

It also might mean that it’ll be some time before we see a UL certified hoverboard on the market. Manufacturers whose products fail may need to redesign key components to insure there’s enough ventilation—or whatever the fix may be—and resubmit their device, at which point it’s another two weeks of testing before it gets the UL okay.

Until then, CPSC is emphatic that hoverboards are not fit to ride. No hoverboard manufacturer has returned our request for comment. Amazon, which currently offers several hoverboards without UL certification for sale, has not yet responded as to whether they’ll remove products from shelves until certification has been achieved.

When asked if he would ride any hoverboard himself, today, Drengenberg replied, “Not in its present state. I certainly wouldn’t want it charging in my house.”


Radio Flyer’s Tesla Model S for kids hits the sidewalk in May

Via: engadget

Thanks to Radio Flyer, your kid can have their very own Tesla Model S this spring. The toymaker teamed up with Elon Musk & Co. to create a version of the all-electric sedan for younger drivers. The Tesla Model S for Kids (catchy name, for sure) retains its EV roots by packing in Flight Speed lithium-ion battery tech. The feature not only increases range — er, playtime — but also makes quick work of the recharging process, which takes as little as three hours. The battery is also removable, so you can keep a spare charged up. In fact, the charging unit itself looks an awful lot like those used for the full-size cars, and it connects to the kids version in a similar fashion.

There’s actually a lot of realistic details borrowed from the highway version. The kids model features working headlights, standard Model S paint schemes and a sound system that will accommodate a mobile device for some road trip tunes. What’s more, the children’s option has two speed settings that top out at 3 MPH and 6 MPH respectively. Unfortunately, there’s no word on autonomous features or that Ludicrous Mode. What we do know is the standard trim Model S for Kids will set you back $500, and it’s set to ship in May. For now, you can take a peek of the vehicle in action down below or mosey on over to the source link to pre-order.

That insanely-expensive hoverboard is now $5,000 cheaper,So?

Did you take a look at Arca Space’s honest-to-goodness actual hoverboard and think that $19,900 was a bit too much? That’s excellent, because the firm has revealed that its canny business deals have lowered the price down to just $14,900. It’s a fact that should please all none of its pre-order customers, which can expect the extra $5,000 to be reimbursed. For that money, buyers will get a slab that, thanks to 36 electric fans kicking out upthrust, will keep you floating, a bit, above the ground, for, uh, six minutes. Which is perfect if your morning commute takes five minutes.

The company has also sought to head-off snarky tech writers looking to complain about the craft’s implausibly short range. Today’s announcement also includes the news that Arca Space is building replacement battery packs that you can swap in to prolong your flight time. According to the release, it’ll take just a single minute for you to replace a dead power pack with a fresh one, extending your range to a staggering 12 minutes. If you’re curious to watch this thing in flight, check out this new video of company CEO Dumitru Popescu noodling around a runway and try to convince you this isn’t just for people with too much money.

The Wild West of Exploding Hoverboards May Soon Come to an End

MAYBE YOU’VE BEEN holding off buying a hoverboard because you’re afraid it’ll catch fire and burn down your house. Smart you! But thanks to a new certification process, it should be easy to find one that’s far less likely to explode.

UL, the firm that conducts OSHA-approved safety testing on consumer products (they’re the people who make sure yourcircuit cables don’t explode and are responsible for the perfection that is your metal waste can), is trying to smooth out all the hoverboard-related hiccups by introducing guidelines for hoverboards. The folks at UL have begun accepting product submittals for “self-balancing scooters.” The UL will evaluate the construction of the devices and, if they pass the company’s tests, certify them as safe under a new certification called UL 2722. UL 2722, also known as “Electrical Systems for Self-Balancing Scooters,” will cover electric drive trains, “including the rechargeable battery and charger system combination for use in self-balancing scooters.”

Submitting a hoverboard for approval is simple: UL has a form where you can request to be part of the certification process. (Hilariously, and appropriately, UL has even dedicated a new landing page to hoverboards.)

“With UL 2722, our expert science, research, and engineering teams have now developed the appropriate requirements and methodology to confidently evaluate and test the entire self-balancing scooter for electrical and fire hazard safety as a system,” says UL VP and general manager for UL’s Energy and Power Technologies, Jeff Smidt.

The testing process will focus on the battery—overcharge (to make sure the battery can’t go beyond its rated voltage and capacity) temperature (to make sure it doesn’t overheat), and drop tests (to make sure they can withstand strikes) will be conducted. UL says other tests will include: “a short-circuit, over-discharge, imbalanced charging, dieleltric voltage, vibration, shock, crush, [and] mold stress relief tests.”

It’s a small, necessary step forward for market that has gone largely unregulated for the past year. Home fires and personal injuries have largely been blamed on faulty, cheap batteries. Low-cost Li-ion batteries, many of them from China, are being thrown into boards—and from the outside, they all look identical; just shiny, hard plastic that helps you float (er, roll) around like a badass angel.

Recently, after a spate of fires, regulators and hoverboard-makers took a few jabs at one another over safety standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was going to investigate how the boards are made, and manufacturers tried to argue that they were using certified products to make the things—though that proved to not be the case. One specific point of contention was between hoverboard-makerSwagway and UL. Swagway said it had been using UL-certified batteries in its boards, and UL clarified that the use of certified batteries didn’t count as total UL certification.

Of course, the fact that lines have been very, very blurred on how safe or unsafe certain boards are is why dedicated certifications need to exist. And now, we have at least one. “This is an unusual situation, in that the requests for testing and certification are coming after a product has been mass produced,” says UL Consumer Safety Director John Drengenberg. “Most manufacturers and retailers seek and want safety certification in the early stages of when a product is introduced to the market.” Drengenberg says the UL certification also means that it will follow-up to make sure the standards are met in going forward, should manufacturers decide to change the creation process or materials used.

You have to wonder, though: By the time this certification process can really get rolling, are we going to be over hoverboards entirely? Forget the fact that you can’t even get them into certain countries, but their popularity has at least slightly waned in the face of headlines pronouncing them dangerous fire-wielders. But hey, maybe this means we’ll have a safety certification process in place by the timereal hoverboards are here.

via: wired

Hoverboard Makers and Regulators Clash, and Much Shade Is Thrown

IT’S NO SECRET that hoverboards have a spotty safety record. The wildly popular and totally inane gadgets have a tendency to suddenly and spontaneously combust, and countless people have injured themselves falling off of them. Finally, after months of inaction, US regulators are taking the first tentative steps to do something about it.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced yesterday that is investigating a handful of manufacturers for safety violations and is also working on creating safety standards for the boards, the vast majority of which are made by the boatload in China. Australia’s already taken steps by issuing a safety warning and investigating whether further regulatory action is needed, and England limits their use to private property under the same law that governs Segway scooters.

Here in the states, some local authorities have investigated specific incidents but so far no one’s named names—until now. The CPSC says it is investigating hoverboards made by Smart BalanceWheel,, Yooliked, Swagway, and others, but is quick to say it has not drawn any conclusions about the safety of those products. The regulators are particularly interested in models involved in fires.

Underwriters Laboratories, which conducts OSHA-approved safety testing, issued a similar statement saying it has not certified the safety of any boards, even though some manufacturers—including Swagway—have blatantly slapped UL labels on their products. While the CPSC didn’t respond to our request for comment about this, in its press release it made it clear that “at this time, the presence of a UL mark on hoverboards or their packaging should not be an indication to consumers of the product’s safety. In fact, any such mark is at best misleading and may even be a sign of a counterfeit product.”

So what gives? Well, it seems Swagway is taking a very liberal view of UL approval. “Swagway recently learned of UL’s press release regarding Swagway’s use of UL marks on its hoverboards,” a company spokesman said. “As Swagway informed UL several weeks ago, Swagway has always ordered and used UL-certified battery cells and UL-certified adapters for its hoverboards.”

In other words, the company is arguing that although Underwriter’s Laboratory didn’t specifically certify its hoverboards, it certified the stuff that goes into its hoverboards, and, besides, it isn’t using the UL-certified label, but a different UL label. The company says it’s been talking “for weeks” to UL about this. “Indeed, at UL’s insistence, among numerous other demands, Swagway was in the process of preparing a press release regarding this issue,” the company says. “Swagway is disappointed that despite its good faith and efforts to work with UL on this issue, UL chose to unilaterally issue its polarizing press release without discussing it with Swagway.”

That may be, but John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at Underwriters Laboratory, said “manufacturers’ products must be tested by UL and pass a rigorous set of safety standards in order to be eligible to bear the UL mark.”

Despite any fallout between the two companies, Swagway says it plans to keep working closely with UL on creating safety standards going forward. So for now, the question of hoverboard regulation and safety certification remains murky. The Consumer Product Safety Commission would like retailers to halt sales and allow consumers to return the gadgets for a refund, but so far only Amazon’s doing that.

via: wired

It’s Too Bad Electric Scooters Are So Lame, Because They May Be the Future


THE FIRST THING you need to know about scooters is that it’s impossible to look cool riding one. When you ride one, people look at you with disdain. They shout things like, “you’re the problem!” and “get off the sidewalk!” (Seriously.) They try to get in your way as much as possible. Even people on hoverboards and electric skateboards judge you. These are just facts.

The second thing you need to know about scooters is that there’s a decent chance you’re going to be riding one soon. It might be a fancy electric seated thing from some hip startup, but just as likely it’ll be an old-school, kick-push-and-coast, Razor-style ride. Why? Because we need a way to move around that isn’t inside a car.

The UN predicts the global population will hit 9.6 billion by 2050. All of that growth will come in cities—two thirds of those people will live in urban areas. We’re breeding like rabbits, and packing people into ever-smaller, ever-taller, ever-more-crowded metropolitan areas, because it’s not like there’s more land in Manhattan or San Francisco or Beijing we’re just not using.

This isn’t one of those “think of your grandchildren!” problems. Our cities are already clogged with traffic, and filled with hideous parking garages that facilitate our planet-killing habits. Even the automakers recognize that the traditional car business—sell a car to every person with the money to buy one—is on its way out. “If you think we’re gonna shove two cars in every car in a garage in Mumbai, you’re crazy,” says Bill Ford, Jr.—the chairman and former CEO of the company his great-grandfather Henry founded to put two cars in every garage.

The problem with moving away from car ownership is that you give up one its biggest upsides: you can usually park exactly where you’re going. Public transit, built around permanent stations, can’t offer that. That’s called the “last mile” problem: How do you get from the subway or bus stop to where you’re actually going, when it’s just a little too far to walk?

There are plenty of possible last-mile solutions: bike-share programs, Segway rentals, folding bikes, even skateboards. In Asia, for instance, a number of cities have experimented with people riding a variety of small, economical “personal electric mobility devices” to get from public transit to their destination. “They are a low-carbon, affordable, and convenient way to bridge the first and last mile gap,” Raymond Ong, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, told Eco-Business.

Electric kick scooters, goofy they may be, are a particularly good answer to the last mile problem. They’re light enough to sling over your shoulder, and small enough to fold for stowing in the trunk of your Uber / Tesla / Hyperloop pod. They’re easy to ride just about anywhere, require minimal physical exertion, and are relatively affordable.

For the last few weeks, I’ve used an electric scooter as part of my daily commute. It’s called the UScooter. It costs $999, and it’s coming to the United States after a successful debut in China. It’s got a range of 21 miles and hits 18 mph with just a push of my right thumb—on a scooter, that feels like warp speed. Every time I ride it, I feel ridiculous. But as I zip up and down the sidewalks of San Francisco, bag slung over my shoulder at the end of a long day, I do it like the fat kid strutting in that “haters gonna hate” gif.

Go ahead, sneer at me from behind the wheel of your SUV. This thing I’m riding is the future. Maybe.

Ridin’ Nerdy

The UScooter was born about five years ago, under another name: E-Twow. (It stands for Electric Two Wheels, and you pronounce it E-2. It makes no sense.) It’s the work of Romanian engineer Sorin Sirbu and his team in Jinhua, China. Sirbu’s friend Brad Ducorsky helped with the development and is now responsible for the improved, better-named Americanized version.

I am squarely the target demographic for the UScooter. Most mornings for the last few weeks, I’ve ridden it out of my Oakland apartment and down the street toward the BART station. I slide to a stop ten blocks later, fold it up, pick it up by the bottom, and run up the stairs to catch the train. I stash it under a seat, or stand it up on one wheel for the ride. Then I carry it up the stairs out of the San Francisco station, unfold it, and ride to work. My 50 minute commute—15 minute walk, 20 minute train, 15 minute walk—is now more like 30.