CPSC Releases Statement on Hoverboard Safety
"Back to the Future Part II" predicted that 2015 would be the year that everyone finally rides hoverboards, and, to an extent, it was correct. Hoverboards, meaning the self-balancing, motorized vehicles, have been a popular item this holiday season, and some promotional products companies have used them as promotional items. However, some of these hoverboards have run into numerous safety problems. Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), released a statement last week on the safety of hoverboards.
Kaye said in the statement that he has directed the CPSC to investigate why hoverboards have been such a fire hazard.
NPR reported that the reason hoverboards pose such a risk of catching fire is the lithium-ion batteries inside. While everyday items, such as smartphones or laptops, also use lithium-ion batteries, the ones found in hoverboards are much more powerful, and Jay Whitacre, a professor of materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, told NPR that some of the batteries found in hoverboards are poor quality.
"I think a lot of them are using second-tier battery sources, which are going to have probably a higher rate of defects," he told NPR. "These things have more lithium-ion batteries in them than most things because they're used to move you around. It takes more batteries to get you the power energy to do that and as such there's just more energy in a small space, and so if something does go wrong, it's a bit more catastrophic."
Kaye said that CPSC field workers are investigating hoverboard-related fires across the U.S., and the commission has taken possession of the boards that caught fire. CPSC engineers are testing new and damaged hoverboards at the commission's National Product Testing and Evaluation Center, looking for answers as to why the boards catch fire during charging stages and use.
Kaye also issued guidelines on how consumers and distributors can safely purchase hoverboards and minimize the risk of fire and injury. He said to avoid purchasing them at a location or on a website that does not have information about who is selling the product and if the seller can be contacted if there is a problem.
For users, he advised against charging the overboard overnight or when the user can't monitor the board.
Finally, all consumers should look for a mark of a certified national testing laboratory. This minimizes the risk of purchasing counterfeits with subpar lithium-ion batteries.
Kaye urged consumers to report any incidents to www.saferproducts.gov.