Hoverboard Self-Balancing Scooter

January 21, 2016
Updated: February 03, 2016
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated after an announcement from Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

In response to widespread reports of fire hazards associated with hoverboards, Amazon has announced that it will provide a full refund to any consumer who purchased one.

"I am pleased that at least one leading retailer is erring on the side of caution and taking action now," Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot F. Kaye said in a recent statement. "I want to commend Amazon for voluntarily stepping up, providing a free remedy and putting customer safety first. I encourage consumers to take advantage of Amazon's offer."

Kaye announced that his agency is still working to provide answers on the safety of hoverboards. In the meantime, however, caution is being encouraged.

"I want to highlight the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has announced that while components of hoverboards, such as battery packs and power supplies, might be UL certified, there currently is no UL certification for hoverboards themselves," said Kaye.

The CPSC is especially focused on the lithium-ion batteries, items often used in cell phones and notebook computers. For these items to be used safely in hoverboards, the agency has consulted test laboratories, lithium-ion battery representatives and other outside experts to verify safe design practices for use.

Many hoverboards feature a stamp of approval from UL, but these should be ignored. In some cases, the presence of one of these marks may be the sign of a counterfeit product.

The fire hazard garners the majority of headlines, but Kaye indicates that the fall hazard posed by these products is pervasive as well. Medical practices have reported an increase in children and adults being admitted after suffering serious falls. Kaye believes that current designs are not the one-size-fits-all item that marketing implies.

"I am concerned that the current designs of these products might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users, potentially leading to the units speeding up or lurching in a manner that a user would not have reason to anticipate, especially a first-time user," said Kaye.

The agency recommends taking the following steps to ensure safe use:

  • Have a working fire extinguisher nearby while charging or using these boards.
  • Charge in an open area away from combustible materials.
  • Gear up before riding, which means putting on a skateboard helmet, elbow and knee pads and wrist guards.
  • Do not use a hoverboard on or near a road.

Update (02/03/2016): UL has announced that it will now be accepting product submittals of hoverboards for construction evaluation, testing, and UL certification.

"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," said Jeff Smidt, in a written statement. Smidt is the vice president and general manager for UL's Energy and Power Technologies Division. "As recent news has shown us, there is a strong need for this type of service, and today we are pleased to offer our testing and certification services to manufacturers and distributors."

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