Why Hoverboards Are Catching Fire and How To Avoid It?

As hoverboards become the number one item on almost every child’s (and some adults) Christmas wish list, reports have emerged over the past week that some models have shorted out and caught fire. One particular case resulted in a hoverboard exploding and catching fire causing substantial damage to the victims home. The concern for the safety and quality of the manufacturing of the hoverboards even prompted the online retail giant Amazon to temporarily delist the products.

When contemplating giving toys/products to children, safety is paramount and the possibility of hoverboards exploding and catching fire is obviously a source of great concern and perhaps even anxiety if you have already purchased one or if your child has requested one for Christmas. So the relevant questions to ask are,  “why are they exploding?” and “is there anything we can do to ensure we do not become victims to the exploding hoverboard?”

A Hoverboard burned to ashes / Image Source: BBC

The primary reason for such exploding malfunctions rests with the quality and type of battery used. Hoverboards typically use Lithium-ion batteries commonly found in mobile phones, tablets  laptops, RC toys etc. They are robust and can withstand repeated charging – however, manufacture them cheaply or misuse them and they can cause significant damage, injury or even be fatal.

Making hoverboards available to the mass market means keeping price reasonable which in turn means the manufacturing of the batteries is being done on the cheap as often batteries are the largest expose in such toys.

Another reason is misuse. Batteries are heavy and on a balance board, they have to be strategically placed in order to not offset the balance of the hoverboard. This means the battery needs to be placed just beneath the feet which, when misused, can dislodge. User error should not be overlooked either. It is not uncommon for even the best and most expensively manufactured batteries to explode due to things such as overcharging or using a third party charger with wrong voltage.

Jay Whitacre, a qualified professor in the field of material science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University told, “If there is no proper protection to the cells, and if the charger is defective, the cells can be severely overcharged. In cases of severe overcharge, even perfectly made cells will eventually fail, though a fire is not always the outcome in this case. The cell may just pop its gas vent and dry out.”

There is no sure fire way of making such toys 100% safe. Caution and common sense must prevail. Avoid cheap imports and buy ones from reputable manufacturers where quality materials are used such as Razer, Moreover, IO Hawk, Phunkeeduck and Swagway and Jetson Electric etc. It may be. Or expensive but what price safety of children?

This video is the best example:

There are two additional checks one can make to ensure you are getting a quality product. Check the UL certificate. UL is a certification company that is approved by Occupational Safety and Health Administration in order to run safety checks on all devices. If the product or the charger does not have one,  return it and get a refund. Secondly, check the manufacturer warranty. Avoid any product  which does have a full one year manufacturers warranty as an absolute minimum.

Finally, life is about having fun.  Hoverboards are fun and we want you to enjoy them. Don’t overcharge the product, don’t leave charging unattended for long periods of time,  respect the product and don’t abuse it,  ensure it’s from a reputable manufacturer,  check warranty and UL certification and above all,  have fun!

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