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.”


Why Hoverboards Are Catching Fire and How To Avoid It?

As hoverboards become the number one item on almost every child’s (and some adults) Christmas wish list, reports have emerged over the past week that some models have shorted out and caught fire. One particular case resulted in a hoverboard exploding and catching fire causing substantial damage to the victims home. The concern for the safety and quality of the manufacturing of the hoverboards even prompted the online retail giant Amazon to temporarily delist the products.

When contemplating giving toys/products to children, safety is paramount and the possibility of hoverboards exploding and catching fire is obviously a source of great concern and perhaps even anxiety if you have already purchased one or if your child has requested one for Christmas. So the relevant questions to ask are,  “why are they exploding?” and “is there anything we can do to ensure we do not become victims to the exploding hoverboard?”

A Hoverboard burned to ashes
A Hoverboard burned to ashes / Image Source: BBC

The primary reason for such exploding malfunctions rests with the quality and type of battery used. Hoverboards typically use Lithium-ion batteries commonly found in mobile phones, tablets  laptops, RC toys etc. They are robust and can withstand repeated charging – however, manufacture them cheaply or misuse them and they can cause significant damage, injury or even be fatal.

Making hoverboards available to the mass market means keeping price reasonable which in turn means the manufacturing of the batteries is being done on the cheap as often batteries are the largest expose in such toys.

Another reason is misuse. Batteries are heavy and on a balance board, they have to be strategically placed in order to not offset the balance of the hoverboard. This means the battery needs to be placed just beneath the feet which, when misused, can dislodge. User error should not be overlooked either. It is not uncommon for even the best and most expensively manufactured batteries to explode due to things such as overcharging or using a third party charger with wrong voltage.

Jay Whitacre, a qualified professor in the field of material science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University told, “If there is no proper protection to the cells, and if the charger is defective, the cells can be severely overcharged. In cases of severe overcharge, even perfectly made cells will eventually fail, though a fire is not always the outcome in this case. The cell may just pop its gas vent and dry out.”

There is no sure fire way of making such toys 100% safe. Caution and common sense must prevail. Avoid cheap imports and buy ones from reputable manufacturers where quality materials are used such as Razer, Moreover, IO Hawk, Phunkeeduck and Swagway and Jetson Electric etc. It may be. Or expensive but what price safety of children?