Hoverboard Problems Lead to Holiday Concerns as Regulators Investigate

Amid mounting reports of self-balancing hoverboards exploding or catching on fire, government safety officials have accelerated an investigation into the products, but warn that there is not enough time to thoroughly analyze the potential hoverboard problems before many children receive the device on Christmas morning.

Hoverboards were a popular gift idea this year, with many children throughout the U.S. hoping to receive the self-balancing electric scooters under their Christmas tree later this week. However, serious concerns have emerged about the safety of the recently introduced devices, including incidents of spontaneous combustion, while charging or being operated.

In a press release issued on December 16, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned about the potential hazards associated with hoverboards and provided an update on the status of their investigation.

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Since the agency began investigating the products earlier this month, at least two additional consumer complaints have been received indicating that hoverboards burst into flames, bring the total number of problems to 12 fires and over 30 hospitalizations from burns and trauma injuries.

Certain retailers, such as Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, Overstock.com, have decided to stop selling certain designs of the hoverboard that include lithium-ion battery assemblies. The United Kingdom has banned the scooters.

The U.S. Postal Service has also announced that it will no longer allow hoverboards with lithium batteries to be shipped by plane, due to the spontaneous fire risks. Any hoverboards with lithium batteries will be restricted to ground shipping only.

According to the CPSC, the agency’s engineers in their National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Maryland have collected consumer’s boards which caught fire and purchased several lithium-ion battery powered models for testing. The team of engineers is currently directing their attention to the configuration of the lithium-ion battery packs and their compatibility with the chargers.

CPSC Chairman, Elliot Kaye, reassured the public that the staff appointed by the agency will be working non-stop to determine the root cause of the fire hazard and how much of a risk might be present in certain designs. For now, the commission is recommending consumers to not charge the hoverboards overnight or when they’re not home, and to avoid purchasing them from mall kiosks and online retailers where the origin of the product is difficult to determine.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the majority of the hoverboards are manufactured in the southern Chinese region of Shenzhen and Zhejiang, and are not registered or regulated. The owner of Ninebot Inc., the company that owns Segway, told the press that many Chinese hoverboard manufacturers are fly-by-night type businesses and may be open one day and gone the next, leaving consumers stranded with hazardous products that won’t be remedied.

At least one Hoverboard lawsuit has already been filed against manufacturer Swagway, who sells the self-balancing scooters for roughly $399. According to court documents, a resident of Chappaqua, New York has filed suit against Swagway alleging the scooter he purchased burst into flames during the charging period, resulting in the dispatch of fire fighters to extinguish the burning house. The Swagway scooters are among those equipped with lithium-ion batteries and presumably part of the CPSC’s ongoing investigation.

Image Credit: Image via 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

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