The self-balancing electric scooter, commonly known as the hoverboard, is the most talked-about device since the first generation iPhone. Though inspired by the hoverboard in the 1989 classic “Back to the Future Part II”, these e-scooters do not levitate. They run on two wheels that are arranged side-by-side and are attached to two small platforms on which the rider stands. The rider controls the hands-free device with his feet on the platforms that have built-in pressure sensor pads. The hoverboard makes as an exciting toy for anyone with able lower limbs. However, the hottest tech happens to fraught with potential hazards.
Safety issues and response
The e-scooters are selling like mad, but they are also getting a bad rap over safety concerns such as explosions and fires caused by defective batteries and overcharging, and injuries from improper use and poor driving by riders. Several airlines have prohibited passengers from bringing their hoverboards on flights, retailers have pulled them from their product selections, and some countries have outlawed them on public roads and sidewalks or passed precautionary measures for their use. There is even a law in California that requires riders to wear helmets and observe speed limit. Hoverboards have not been certified as safe yet, but some people are fighting to legalize their use.
Wheels on fire: What causes hoverboard fires
Consumer safety officials have long looked into hoverboards’ battery packs and chargers as the main culprits. Hoverboards use lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), much like the ones used in laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. Most LIBs have liquid electrolyte, a flammable material, in them, so when you overcharge your hoverboard, the electrolyte in the LIB quickly heats up – and then the worst thing happens. The hoverboard is not like your laptop or mobile device that you can just plug in and leave them overnight. It does not have the same mechanism that shuts off the flow of electricity once fully charged. You must never leave your e-scooter unattended while it is charging – and unplug it when it is done.
You are always advised to only use the charger that comes with your hoverboard, but what if it comes with a plug that you cannot find? If you are intelligent enough, you would head to your nearest hardware to purchase a universal plug. If not, you would be using your laptop charger to power your electric scooter – and that is how fire hazards start. Using the wrong kind of charger could potentially damage the battery of your hoverboard.
How to avoid hoverboard fires?
Just like with any other type of electronic device, you need to use your e-scooter with caution. Here are some tips to keep you from getting burned on your self-balancing device:
- Don’t overcharge – Two hours is the maximum time to charge your hoverboard. Beyond that, you could drain the power, and the LIB will not last long. You know what will happen when you cause your battery to overheat.
- Check your battery and charger for standard certification marks – Your battery pack and charger should have safety standard labels on them, such as CE, CCC, NOM, and UL, among others plus manufacturer details.
- Don’t drive over bumps or curbs – Going over big bumps or cubs could damage your e-scooter’s battery and balance sensors.
- Don’t attempt any jumps and tricks – Doing so could damage not only the balance sensors, but also the wheels and frame of your device. Worse, your hoverboard could break in half.
- Charge immediately when necessary – If it is blinking red, hop off and charge. Driving on low power will affect battery life and cause the battery to overheat.
- Keep your hoverboard in the right places – It is best to store your e-scooter in the garage. No garage? If you can afford to install a fire sprinkler system that can put out chemical fires, please do so or else get yourself a fire extinguisher. Never attempt to douse chemical fires with water.