A “Hoverboard” is a self-balancing scooter powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Most commonly, hoverboards have two wheels arranged side-by-side connected by two gyroscopic pads on which the rider stands. The device has no handles and is controlled by the rider’s feet, giving the illusion the rider is hovering.
What’s the issue?
Hoverboards are powered by extremely powerful li-on batteries, the same kind used in everything from smartphones to hybrid cars. The problem is, when these batteries are produced inexpensively or through unregulated (black market) manufacturers they have the potential to short circuit. When this happens, batteries can catch fire and even explode, as was the case with a recent Pennsylvania house fire caused by an exploding hoverboard; Where a young girl lost her life.
CPSC on Hoverboards
The Consumer Products Safety Commision, or CPSC, recently announced a recall on over half a Million hoverboards marketed under 13 different brand names.
- Swagway / Swagtron X1 model
- Razor Hovertrax
- Airwalk Self Balancing Electric Scooter
- Hype Roam
- Back to the Future
- Mobile Tech
- Hover Shark
- X Glider
The federal commision released the following statement regarding their year long investigation into the safety of hoverboards,
“Many of these fires occurred indoors and could have resulted in serious injuries if not for the quick actions of consumers to extinguish the fire… This is a priority investigation and CPSC is devoting the staff time and resources necessary to find the root causes of the fires.”
Many independent retailers have also opted to recall hoverboards. Currently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating 22 reports of hoverboard fires.
Retailers and hoverboards
Many online retailers have opted to discontinue sales of hoverboards, despite their popularity. One such retailer is Overstock.com who decided to recall all 4,300 hoverboards sold on its website. Amazon.com has also banned sales of hoverboards after being hit with a $30 Million dollar lawsuit in connection with a house fire reportedly caused by a hoverboard purchased on the site.
Have other lawsuits been filed against hoverboard manufacturers?
Swagway is the leading name in hoverboard technology, however many hoverboards are believed to be black or grey market. This means they are manufactured overseas (usually China), under a variety of names, with very little regulation in production or distribution. This has caused a great deal of confusion with consumers, who say they were lead to believe that the products they were purchasing were safe and regulated. Since it is almost impossible to trace the actual manufacturers of many of these products, some lawsuits have been filed against the retailers or promoters of the defective and dangerous products.
Hoverboard fires in the news
CNN News recently reported on the death of a 3 year old Pennsylvania girl due to an exploding hoverboard battery. Ashanti Hughes died in Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest’s burn unit in mid March 2017. This was the first reported death directly attributed to a malfunctioning hoverboard, though thousands of serious injuries have also been reported at the hands of the hugely popular transportation devices. The story went on to profile a February 9, 2016 fire that burned down a family’s million-dollar Nashville home.
“The fact that a toy caused this kind of destruction to our lives is just wrong,” said Megan Fox, the owner of the now destroyed home.
CNET Online profiled the volatile nature of foreign lithium ion batteries in it’s 2016 story, “Here are the reasons why so many hoverboards are catching fire.” It spoke of overseas manufacturers cutting corners in order to save money. “A defective battery might have tiny sharp metal particles inside that could puncture the separator all on its own. “When this happens, especially when the batteries are charged, a lot of heat is generated inside the cells and this leads to electrolyte boiling, the rupture of the cell casing, and then a significant fire,”” The story continued by stating that there was no clear way for consumers to know if they were purchasing a safe, or unsafe product. “What you have is a product coming in here where no one knows which safety standards are applicable.”
Hoverboard fires in review
A “Hoverboard” is a self-balancing scooter powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The problem is, when these batteries are produced inexpensively or through unregulated (black market) manufacturers they have the potential to short circuit. When this happens, batteries can catch fire and even explode. The Consumer Products Safety Commission, or CPSC, recently announced a recall on over half a Million hoverboards marketed under 13 different brand names. At least one person has died at the hands of a malfunctioning hoverboard, and a number of others have been injured. Lawsuits demanding accountability from distributors and promoters have been filed. Potentially deadly hoverboards are still being produced overseas and sold to unsuspecting American consumers.