When hoverboards and self-balancing smart scooters were introduced in 2013, a lot of people were hyped. It may not be the hoverboard that Marty Mcfly used in “Back to the Future 2,” but the feeling is somewhat close.
The invention of the hoverboard did cause enough hype for people to be eager to get their hands on one, but the first few generations of hoverboards were not entirely safe. Some of the first hoverboards were catching fire, so companies and distributors like Amazon did a recall on hoverboards.
Hoverboard fires were common when they were first released, which is why they started to pull the product off the shelves of retailers and online distributors. Due to the common incidents of hoverboard explosions (1) from 2015 to 2017, the manufacturers had to do a recall on most of their products.
Did the safety of hoverboards improve these days? Did the manufacturers determine what they did wrong to solve the problem of hoverboard fires in 2020?
In this article, we will look at some of the most notable recalls in the past, go through strategies to avoid fire hazards, and explore how hoverboards are much safer now. We will also look at hoverboard brands to stay away from, and the hoverboards that do not catch fire.
What Causes a Hoverboard Explosion?
The primary reason that causes a hoverboard fire is the batteries. Most hoverboards are equipped with lithium-ion batteries, which are significantly larger than mobile phone batteries. Without getting too technical, these batteries were built poorly at first. The component or polymer separator that separates both positive and negative terminals is too flimsy.
Because hoverboards and scooters are in constant motion and have to endure a lot of bumps on the road, the flimsy separator will eventually break. The breakage causes both negative and positive terminals to touch, which will immediately result in a short circuit and generate a large amount of heat. The heat will be absorbed by the flammable compounds of the battery and cause a fire hazard, which can lead to a hoverboard explosion.
Are Hoverboards Safe Now?
Since there have not been any recalls on hoverboards in the years 2018 through 2020, hoverboards are much safer now more than ever. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a third-party safety testing company, truly made a difference with the series of tests they created for hoverboards to make sure they are safe. We could thank UL (2) for certifying other electric rides such as electric scooters and skateboards as well.
After hoverboards were released, not even one gyro scooter met the UL 2272 requirements, which means that the product went through a series of rigorous testing to make sure that they conform with the international fire and safety standards.
The very first UL 2272 certified hoverboard is Ninebot N3M320 by Segway. Since then, more brands have followed their footsteps into manufacturing safer hoverboards such as Razor (3), Swagtron (4), and many more.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of untested devices that roam around in the market. To avoid buying a device that could cause fire hazards, make sure that they are UL 2272 certified, and look for the certification. Usually, a UL sticker on the bottom part of the hoverboard deck would indicate that a product is safe to use.
Because there are still untested products, it is recommended to avoid lesser-known hoverboard brands. Sadly, up to this day, there are still incidents of hoverboard fires occurring outside and inside of the US. UL is doing its best to stop the circulation of counterfeit and low-quality products. They continue to work with law enforcement agencies such as the US Customs and Border Protection to identify and seize products without a UL mark from entering the United States border.
UL Test and Certification
Before a product becomes UL certified, the prototype or sample will have to go through a lot of tests and mini-tests.
Lithium-ion batteries are compact batteries that store enough power to operate an electric ride, which is why this type of battery is ideal for hoverboards and electric scooters. However, they are more prone to overheating. To test the batteries, it has to go through several overcharges and discharge cycles to ensure its integrity.
Since hoverboards go through a lot of mechanical stress, it may damage the battery over time. To test the motor and mechanical components, the hoverboards go through a series of abuse such as banging tests, a drop test, and vibration tests. These tests will make sure that the mechanical components are intact. Mechanical components that loosen can cause battery-related damage.
Most hoverboards use USB chargers just like on a smartphone or tablet. These chargers are not 100% safe, so to get certified, the charger will also be tested. Using a different charger that is not UL certified to charge a hoverboard is not a good idea. Make sure that you use the charger that came with the unit at all times. Using a different charger may cause overheating because it may have a different power output that could cause an explosion.
Electrical components such as the wires will also be checked. Any exposed wires can cause a short circuit and damage the battery, so the people at UL will take a closer look into the electrical components including the wires. If any exposed wires or wires are not properly secured, a hoverboard will not be certified as safe.
Hoverboards are mostly used outdoors, so they are subjected to the usual environmental factors such as water splashes, rain, and partial water immersion. These hoverboards will have to go through intense thermal cycles, which is done to make sure that liquid does not seep into its internal components and cause a short circuit.
Marking and Instructions
Finally, after going through and passing a series of intense tests, UL will check if the manufacturer has included enough documentation to instruct proper and safe charging practices. UL will check all sorts of markings on the product, such as the date of manufacture, model, name of the manufacturer, and electrical rating.
Other Mini Tests
Here is a list of the series of mini-tests that UL 2272 certified hoverboards go through:
- Overcharge test
- Short circuit test
- Over-discharge test
- Temperature test
- Imbalance charge test
- Dielectric voltage withstand the test
- Isolation resistance test
- Leakage current test
- Vibration test
- Shock test
- Crash test
- Drop test
- Mold stress relief test
- Water exposure test
- Handle loading test
- Thermal cycling test
- Label performance test
- Strain relief test
- Motor overload test
- Motor locked rotor test
If a hoverboard passes all of these tests, it is guaranteed to be safe within normal use. UL only does these extreme tests to test the limits of the board, you probably won’t drop the hoverboard or submerge it in water. Now that you know what UL certified hoverboards go through, you may be more confident in choosing a UL certified board the next time you purchase a hoverboard.
How to Choose a Safe Hoverboard and How to Avoid Hoverboard Fires
Although UL 2272 hoverboards are certified safe to use, it is best to practice safety measures to avoid any hoverboard incidents such as hoverboard fire and explosions. Here are tips and ways to hoverboard fires.
1. Get a hoverboard that is UL-Certified
First of all, make sure that you get a UL 2272 certified hoverboard. If you are on a budget, you do not have to go for cheap and unknown brands. There are a lot of affordable hoverboards with UL certification.
2. Only use the charger that came with the unit
Never use a different charger other than the one that came with the hoverboard. Each hoverboard has different power requirements and using a different charger might supply more or less power that is required, ultimately resulting in battery damage. If the charger is broken, make sure that you order a new charger from the manufacturer and make sure that it is fit for the specific hoverboard model.
3. Never overcharge your hoverboard
Hoverboard explosions are often caused by overcharging. Although some UL 2272 hoverboards have a safe charging feature, it is best to avoid overcharging just to be extra safe. Most hoverboard models only take 3 hours to get a full charge, so make it a habit to unplug the device when it has reached a full charge. Avoid charging a hoverboard overnight or leave it unattended.
4. Store your hoverboard in a cool area
A hoverboard battery can be too sensitive to heat. If the battery is exposed to high temperatures, there is a possibility that it will get damaged or worse, it will explode. All types of batteries are sensitive to heat, and lithium-ion batteries have a higher risk. When your hoverboard is not in use, make sure you store in it a safe place that does not get really hot or get hit by direct sunlight. To be extra safe, make sure you keep the board away from flammable objects. You do not want the fire to spread in case it does explode.
5. Do not let your board sit for too long when fully charged
It is not a good idea to leave a fully-charged hoverboard in storage for too long. Although keeping your hoverboard charged at all times is a good practice to extend the battery life cycles, make sure the battery is just around 80 to 90% if you do not have plans of using it for a while. If it is fully charged, you can take it out for a short ride.
6. Use your hoverboard with care
Make sure you use your hoverboard within its limits. UL might have done some tests to make sure that the hoverboard is safe to use on any condition, but problems can still occur if you smash the board often. For example, if you are planning to use a hoverboard for off-road riding, make sure your hoverboard is designed for the task. If the electric components such as wires loosen up or get damaged, it will cause a short circuit that will cause your hoverboard to catch fire.
Hoverboard Recall List (from oldest to newest)
|Date of Recall||Recall Details/Brand||Reason for Recall|
|July 6, 2016||Hoverboards recalled by 10 firms||Fire hazard|
|July 6, 2016||PTX performance product recalls for hoverboards||Fire hazard|
|July 6, 2016||Yuka Clothing hoverboard recall||Fire hazard|
|July 6, 2016||Hoverboard LLC recalls||Fire hazard|
|July 6, 2016||Digital Gadgets hoverboard recall||Fire hazard|
|July 6, 2016||Overstock.com hoverboard recall||Fire hazard|
|July 6, 2016||Razor hoverboard recall||Fire hazard|
|July 6, 2016||Keenford Limited hoverboard recall||Fire hazard|
|July 6, 2016||Hype Wireless hoverboard recall||Fire hazard|
|December 12, 2016||World Trading recall for hoverboards by Evine||Fire hazard|
|March 23, 2017||Vecaro Lifestyle hoverboard recall||Fire hazard|
|July 24, 2017||iRover hoverboard recall||Fire hazard|
|November 14, 2017||Salvage World hoverboard recall||Fire hazard and explosion|
|November 14, 2017||Dollar Mania recall for Sonic Smart hoverboards||Fire hazard and explosion|
|November 14, 2017||Tech Drift hoverboard recall||Fire hazard and explosion|
|November 14, 2017||iHoverspeed hoverboard recall by Simplified Wireless||Fire hazard|
|November 14, 2017||iLuive Hoverboards recalled by Digital Products||Fire hazard|
|November 14, 2017||Go Wheels hoverboard recall by Four Star Imports||Fire hazard and explosion|
|November 14, 2017||Drone Nerds hoverboard recall||Fire hazard and explosion|
UL-Certified Hoverboards (Hoverboards that don’t catch fire)
Here are some of the best hoverboards that are UL certified that you should definitely try out if you are in the market for a new self-balancing smart scooter.
These are only a few of many UL 2272 certified boards out there. Some brands like Segway Ninebot, Halo, FutureSaw also have UL 2272 certified products. Before buying your next hoverboard, always check the specs or check for that UL sticker on the bottom of the unit.
Because of all the hoverboard fires and explosion incidents in the past, manufacturers have become more careful when producing hoverboards. Even though most brands are now safe from fire hazards, make sure that you are safe from injuries. As a rider, you should make sure that you do your part in remaining safe by investing in a helmet and safety pads to avoid any injuries when you are out for a ride.