What has two wheels, can burst into flames, bucks riders onto the ground, and decidedly does NOT hover? The new category of wheeled toy vehicles called “hoverboards,” which are now under investigation by the U.S. government.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced last week it is looking into dozens of fires involving the two-wheeled, motorized devices known as hoverboards, which are also called smart boards or self-balancing boards.
“Many of these fires occurred indoors and could have resulted in serious injuries if not for the quick actions of consumers to extinguish the fire,” the agency reported.
While some media have made claims that low quality lithium-ion batteries are to blame for the fires, CPSC engineers are looking at the products as a whole to figure out exactly why the toys keep bursting into flames.
The CPSC notes that, while some components of hoverboards may be certified by Underwriters Laboratories (and are marked with the safety designation “UL”), there is currently no UL certification for hoverboards themselves. Thus, each model is being investigated individually to find specific problems.
“This is a priority investigation and CPSC is devoting the staff time and resources necessary to find the root causes of the fires.”
CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye in a concurrent statement noted that Amazon.com is allowing consumers to return these products for a full refund.
Kaye wrote that, beyond the 40+ fires caused by the boards, many fall injuries have been reported as well. The CPSC is also assessing the fall risk associated with hoverboard use.
Kaye’s statement is direct:
“At first glance, it is easy to believe the risk of falling off a hoverboard is an obvious one and to dismiss those injuries as user inexperience or error. However, I am concerned, for example, 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.
“Fall injuries can be serious and life-altering. Many people, including children, have ended up with fractures, contusions or head/brain injuries. Hospitals across the country are reporting spikes in children and adults being admitted after suffering serious falls. If you or your child continue to use this product, I recommend that you do so with a helmet and pads. I have two very active young boys, so I very much appreciate the struggle sometimes to get kids to use safety gear. But, wearing proper safety gear in this instance should be non-negotiable.”
CPSC engineers are currently testing hoverboards – new models and those involved in fire incidents – at the National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Rockville, MD.
The brands currently under investigation include those made by:
- Smart Balance Wheel/One Stop Electronic Inc.
- Smart Balance Wheel Scooter/Glide Boards
- Hover-way Hands-Free Electric/Digital Gadgets LLC
- Swagway Hands-Free Smart Board/Swagway LLC
- Smart Balance Board/I Lean Hoverboards
- E-Rover-Mini Smart Balance Scooter/LeCam Technology
- Smart Balance Wheels/Kateeskitty
- iMOTO/Keenford Limited
- Smart Balance Wheel/Luxiyan and
- E-Rover Smart Balance Wheel
If you have a hoverboard, the CPSC recommends using with extreme caution, have a working fire extinguisher nearby while charging or using these boards in and around your home. Be sure to charge the hoverboard in an open area away from combustible materials. Be safe and gear up for your ride with a skateboard helmet, elbow and knee pads, and wrist guards. Lastly, avoid riding your hoverboard on or near a road.