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Are hoverboards as dangerous as some people make them out to be? While current hoverboards and personal scooters are less likely to spontaneously combust right under your feet, this wasn’t always the case. Inconsistent manufacturing practices and dubious material quality once made this product category unsafe. Today, you’re more likely to get injured because you lost your balance while riding the best hoverboard. But when the device was first released, a critical design flaw made it a fire hazard and caused serious bodily injury and property damage before regulations and guidelines were implemented.
Hoverboards still can catch on fire. They rely on lithium-ion battery packs to power them because this type of battery is compact but incredibly powerful. But the one drawback of lithium-ion is that it contains highly flammable fluid. And if a battery isn’t designed to specific standards, normal wear and tear, and even just the process of charging it could encourage surface damage which can lead to overheating, and in worst-case scenarios — explosions and fires.
Between 2016 and 2017, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) — a governing oversight body — logged more than 250 separate incidents that were related to hoverboard malfunctions. This includes fires that led to property damage and, tragically, fatalities too. According to CPSC, hoverboard fires and explosions have caused more than $4 million worth of property damage in the U.S.
While it’s tempting to believe that hoverboards just magically combust for no reason, the opposite is true. United Laboratories (UL) indeed created the UL2272 safety standards which saw improvement in lithium-ion battery quality and reduced the rash of hoverboard fires and explosions.
But human error coupled with inferior battery quality was directly linked to the majority of the incidents. In particular, victims often reported leaving their hoverboards charging overnight or leaving them fully charged but idle for too long — two risk factors that increased the chances of a lithium-ion battery explosion. Instead, hoverboards shouldn’t be charged for more than three hours and fully charged devices should be ridden until at least 10% discharged to prevent the batteries from overheating.
Tip: hoverboards shouldn’t be charged for more than three hours and fully charged devices should be ridden until at least 10% discharged