Self-balancing electric scooters, popularly known as hoverboards, are the face of intelligent transportation: Intuitive and hands-free. Personal transporters have caught up with electric cars and e-bikes when it comes to electric mobility and digital connectivity. Since their debut as the “Segways” without the handlebars, hoverboards have proven themselves to be a smarter and far more exciting ride. Who would not have guessed that self-balancing electric scooters are the first to go both “smart” and hand-free ahead conventional four-wheel drives. (One car maker is currently perfecting a self-driving car that features autopilot technology.)
But despite its commercial success, hoverboards get mixed reviews on safety. There have been numerous fire and explosion incidents caused by defective units in family homes. And like consumer electronics, self-balancing electric scooters are not spared from the work of counterfeiters. As hoverboards get more popular, knockoffs from China flood the market. Confusingly, many of the fakes look flashy and classy, almost like the authentic ones, but the difference lies in the quality of components used, and that is where many consumers find it hard to differentiate between authentic and fake brands. For safety and quality reasons, many department stores and online retailers stopped selling them for quite some time. Amazon once again made self-balancing electric scooters available on their site, but only the ones that hopefully will not explode.
You may be one of those consumers wary about buying a hoverboard. You have a need for it, and your need is genuine, but so if your doubt and concern. You have questions, and you want them answered before you decide to buy one of those popular self-balancing electric scooters in the market.
1. Why do some hoverboards catch fire?
Whenever a hoverboard fire or explosion occur, news reports are quick to point to the battery as the main culprit – and they are right. Blame it on the counterfeiters. They use low quality or substandard lithium-ion batteries that lack overcharge protection. Batteries without overcharge protection can cause hoverboards to overheat and explode.
Some self-balancing electric scooters come with batteries that lack a suitable separator. Lithium-ion batteries use a metal separator to keep the positive and negative electrolytes apart in order to prevent short circuit. A short circuit can cause a lithium-ion battery pack to heat up quickly, leading to a fire.
How can you avoid such a disaster? Go with self-balancing electric scooters that use a genuine Samsung or LG battery rather than an unbranded battery or cheap knockoff brand. The battery should bear not only safety instructions, but also safety certification marks such as UL and CE.
2. How long does it take to charge a hoverboard?
Good thing you ask this question. Unlike laptops and smartphones, self-balancing electric scooters do not have the mechanism that shuts down the flow of electricity once fully charged. And unlike electric cars and e-bikes, you cannot leave a charging hoverboard unattended overnight. Good thing most hoverboards take up only 1 to 2 hours to charge.
Reminder: When charging a hoverboard, never leave them unattended. Do not overcharge. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended charging time.
3. Is it suitable for children?
Or to rephrase the question, should parents buy one for their kids? Self-balancing electric scooters are recommended for ages 12 and up, but they may be suitable for younger children as long as they can control it safely – and only use under parent supervision. If you are a parent, you should know that Self-balancing electric scooters travel fast. If used incorrectly, they can be dangerous to both adults and kids, who may accidentally fall out and injure themselves.
Before you let your child use a hoverboard, read the user manual first so you can instruct your child on how to use it safely. Better yet, consider self-balancing electric scooters that are specially designed for children or models that come with safety features.
4. How much does a hoverboard cost?
It depends on the brand or retailer. Prices can range anywhere from $200 to over $1,500. Some brands that sell for $200 look exactly the same as the ones that sell for $1,500. It may be no secret to you that counterfeit brands are cheaper than the authentic or branded ones. Mostly coming from China, these counterfeit self-balancing electric scooters are made of cheaper (but less durable and more dangerous) materials, use non-branded (and less powerful) batteries, and do not offer a warranty or after-sales service.
Money advice: You should be able to get a good quality hoverboard for around $400-$600. Avoid hoverboards that cost below $300. If you are brand-conscious, you can opt for high end self-balancing electric scooters that retail for $1,500 plus. Heavy on the pocket, but it will be worth the investment since you will be enjoying a durable and safe product, plus warranty and after-sales service. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Moreover, check if the manufacturer or retailer offers any kind of money-back guarantee. If you do not like the hoverboard you have bought, you could at least return it and buy a new one.
5. Where to buy affordable quality hoverboards?
Browse online marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba for the most budget-friendly self-balancing electric scooters. It should be now safe to shop for a hoverboard at Amazon, which is now making sure they sell only units that will not explode. You should also check the manufacturer websites. Brands like PhunkeeDuck, IO Hawk, Swagway, and Razor even sell self-balancing electric scooters from their own online shops – and even offer great discounts to online shoppers. Online purchase is your only choice, since most major retailers like Walmart and Target stopped selling self-balancing electric scooters, but if you are wary about online purchase, best check your nearest department store.
If you decide to buy via Amazon or any online marketplace, here is a checklist for a safe, secured, and worry-free online purchase:
- Search for reviews of the product and the seller/manufacturer. What are online customers saying about them?
- Check the website’s online portal and try to make an order. Does the checkout or shopping cart come with online security or merchant verification seals such as Comodo Secure, Authorize.net Verified Merchant, McAfee Secure, and TRUSTe Privacy? Is online payment done via PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, or American Express?
- Check the web address. Is there a letter ‘s’ at the end of the ‘http’ part or a padlock symbol in the task bar? This means the website uses an encrypted system to protect online shoppers’ personal and credit card details.
6. How to check the quality of hoverboards?
Self-balancing electric scooters now come with a UL Mark, the single most accepted certification mark in the US. The Underwriter Laboratories (UL) is an international safety consulting and certification company that tests, inspects, certifies, and validates billions of consumer products, including electronics, annually. The UL has introduced UL 2272, the new certification for self-balancing electric scooters.
Tip: Make sure your hoverboard is UL certified. Look for the rectangular-sized holographic certification label for self-balancing scooters on the bottom of the product and the UL mark on the front of the packaging. The mark and the label indicate you have a genuine UL certified hoverboard.
There is no other tech that is facing a lot of scrutiny than the hoverboard. Purely electric, emission-free, and lightweight, these self-balancing e-scooters are vehicles with great potential as a transportation alternative. Like every piece of technology, they are a work in progress, and it is likely that future self-balancing electric scooters will be better and safer than today’s makes.