For those who have watched and enjoyed the “Back to the Future” movie trilogy, one of the coolest scenes in the sequel was when Marty McFly turned a skateboard into a hovering board to get away from Biff and his gang. This was, perhaps, what gave the idea of the coolest toy to be invented: the self-balancing scooter often referred to as hoverboards.
In 2105, this two-wheeled motorized mobility device became available commercially and was an instant craze. But as soon as its popularity soared, concerns also started to arise with reports of some mini-segway balancing scooters catching fire. In the middle of the year, almost half a million hoverboards were recalled for fire risks and explosion.
What could be causing this problem? Experts mention several reasons behind smart balancing boards catching fire.
One of the possible culprits is the lithium-ion battery pack that powers this mobility device. According to experts, a thin sheet of micro-perforated plastic separates the anode and cathode parts of the battery. Concurrently, lithium ions pass through this separator. As the battery is charged, it is possible to heat up and expand. When these things happen, the result can be lithium ion leak and short circuiting of the wires. While this type of battery does not really contain materials that are harmful to the environment, overheating is possible. When batteries become too hot, they can light up and worse, explode.
This might not be surprising to most people since other reports about exploding smartphones and laptops have also surfaced in the recent months. Samsung was not spared from this issue with the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 for explosion risks.
Meanwhile, there are also other reasons that can be attributed to these balancing transporters’ fire risk. Since these smart-balance scooters are prone to bumps and crashes, some say that these abuses can also trigger fire or explosion once the battery releases too much energy in too short a time.
There are also some Chinese manufacturers who use substandard materials in building these toys and more importantly, generic battery packs other than the prescribed brands like LG and Samsung. If counterfeit lithium-ion batteries are used with the device, safety is compromised because of the possibility of overheating.
As for the owners of last year’s top ranking item on the Christmas wish list, leaving these devices charging for more than the required period of time can either decrease battery life or cause it to overheat. An average of three hours is the charging time indicated in most manuals. Also, using a third-party charger other than the original one that came with the product can present fire risks.
This year, designs of newer self-balancing transporters are better with the Lambo hoverboard with Bluetooth as an example. Concerned government agencies also recommend to consumers to only buy from reputable distributors. Underwriters Laboratories also came up with the UL certification to ensure manufacturers follow the safety guidelines to address these concerns.
While there really is no guarantee that these wholesale hoverboards are 100% safe, the public is advised to be smarter and more cautious when they make a purchase.