Our early 90’s science fiction were right after all, there are indeed hoverboards in 2016. Those movies however missed an important detail — how unsafe the would be. Over the holiday, trendy kids have flashed through sidewalks with speed, lovers made a nerdy impression on their date and celebrities showed-off thanks to the must have transportation toy. Now the US government think its not safe, making a rather startling conclusion after its months-long investigation into the safety hazards posed by hoverboards.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC last week sent out an official notice to retailers, manufacturers and importers with new hoverboard safety standards. The notice cautioned that if the new standards are not followed, the notified party risked legal actions, including seizure of the devices as well as civil and criminal penalties.
An Image from the CPSC showing a burnt hoverboard.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there have been 12 incidents in the US where the lithium ion batteries in these hoverboards reportedly caught fire, destroying bedrooms and in some cases even entire homes . In February, the number was updated to about 52 reports of hoverboard fires totaling over $2 million in property damages.
Hoverboard fires have started in all sorts of different circumstances so there’s technically no known way of using the device to avoid a fire incident. According to victims and witnesses account, some of the hoverboards exploded while charging, others while riding and others while it was simply sitting unused. While the CPSC is now reportedly working nonstop to figure out the actual root causes of these incidents, they are still yet to make a definitive judgement. So far, a lot of reports have blamed the batteries, others the cables, but we don’t know for sure.
The CPSC notice informed all involved parties that all boards should be certified safe by Underwriters Laboratories, a widely used independent testing firm, as well as meet The United Nation’s requirements for lithium-ion battery products. Underwriters library started testing hoverboards since February, both so far non has been certified.
“Consumers risk serious injury or death if their self-balancing scooters ignite and burn,” acting director of the CPSC’s Office of Compliance and Field Operations, Robert Howell, wrote in the letter.
CPSC’s “directives” isn’t actually a recall, though it will likely instigate recalls of hoverboards by major manufacturers and retailers. As precautionary moves, airlines like American Airlines, Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and United Airlines have all banned hoverboards on passenger flights , and the US Postal Service has stopped sshippin hoverboards by air as well. E-commerce giant, Amazon and Target have both temporarily suspended sales, and Overstock.com has stopped selling hoverboards at all. Amazon and Target are making sure individual components of these hoverboards — namely the batteries and the chargers — have been certified for safety. Amazon is currently asking that all those selling on its plartform provide proof they comply with UN 38.3, UL 1642 and UL 60950-1 safety standards specifically.