By Jaeho Lee
The increasingly popular self-balancing scooters—known as “hoverboards”-- have been talked about not only because of the amount of celebrity endorsement, but also because of the safety concerns. After celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Wiz Khalifa, and Skrillex started to endorse hoverboards, thousands of people started to buy hoverboards.
One of the reasons why hoverboards explode is the faulty battery. Because many factories that assemble hoverboards sacrifice quality over profit, some hoverboards are assembled with the cheap, below standard parts. The cheap batteries used in many hoverboards are usually defective and can lead to deadly consequences.
An inspection by the UK’s National Trading Standards found, 15,000, or 88%, are “unsafe,” because of “issues with the plug, cabling, charger, battery, or the cut-off switch within the board, which often fails,” on Dec. 3.
In a Wired Science article “Why Hoverboards Keep Exploding,” Professor Jay Whitacre of Carnegie Mellon University explains that, “Small defects … lead to the plus/minus sides of the batteries being shorted with each other after a small amount of use. When this happens a lot of heat is generated inside the cells and this leads to electrolyte boiling, the rupture of the cell casing, and then a significant fire.”
Hoverboards explode also explode because of the chargers. Faulty chargers can damage the internal structure of the battery, causing the battery to heat up. As the battery heats up, it releases further energy, which causes a further increase in temperature, releasing more energy and so on. This continues until the battery explosively ruptures, leading to a fire.
The fire created by the hoverboard is deadly because it can only be extinguished by a class D fire extinguisher, unless the battery contains extremely little lithium. Since most people do not have class D fire extinguishers, fires created from hoverboard explosions are extremely dangerous.
While the problem may be solved by buying more expensive hoverboards, there is no guarantee since the product category is still so new that there has not been rigorous testing on the safety of hoverboards.