The recently-discovered hoverboard fire risk could be a sign that we, as consumers, were a little too eager for Back to the Future, Part II technology in 2015. It has even been heavily debated that those devices with the big wheels and two-part platforms aren’t really hovering, and just Segways without handlebars.
However, Segways usually don’t randomly burst into flame. For this reason, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has begun inquiries into the manufacturers of the devices, and studying the various hazards involved. In the meantime, if you insist on using one, it is suggested that you use the same precautions you would with a skateboard (helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads), as well as keep it away from combustible materials and asphalt. Plus, you should carry a fire extinguisher.
One risk other than the hoverboard fire issue is simply falling off, which may or may not be due to typical conditions. According to Gizmodo, the devices might work in unanticipated ways explained by CPSC chairman Elliot F. Kaye.
“At first glance, it is easy to believe the risk of falling off a hoverboard is an obvious one and to dismiss those injuries as user inexperience or error… [but] current designs of these products might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users, potentially leading to the units speeding up or lurching in a manner that a user would not have reason to anticipate.”
Kaye also noticed a surprising lack of safety features, especially for the lithium-ion batteries which the device runs on.
“There are certain basic safety technologies we expect these units to have that should prevent overheating and potential combustion. These are the same readily-available technologies that exist in properly manufactured lithium-ion batteries used in the notebook computers and cell phones we all use every day.”
Technically, the hoverboard fire risk could easily be due to bad design in regards to the battery the device uses. It apparently has too much of a tendency to overheat and catch fire through normal use.
The issue has become so widespread that retailers like Amazon have begun offering refunds for the hoverboards, no questions asked. This is what CPSC chairman Kaye has recommended across the board.
“I expect other retailers and manufacturers of hoverboards to take action and offer a full refund now to their customers as well. I also expect responsible large-volume online sellers in particular to stop selling these products until we have more certainty regarding their safety.”
From the risks of fire and falling alone, hoverboards are appearing to be more of a problem than consumers had thought. This past holiday season saw a plethora of sales for what very likely should have stayed in development a little while longer just for safety.
The hoverboard fire risk is definitely a serious matter, as Fox News reports. One father in Santa Rosa, California, is blaming the manufacturers for a house fire which killed his two dogs. Thankfully, the blaze was contained, otherwise homeowner David Carpenter says the fire might have killed his daughter, as well. The dogs had died from the smoke which billowed from the hoverboard as it laid on the floor and caught fire.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 21, 2016
David Carpenter equated the sales of hoverboards to “selling kids bombs.”
The CPSC could be rather busy with its investigations over the overheating device, as this was one of several reported fires started across the country. It is unknown where the blame officially lies yet, but manufacturers of hoverboards may need to improve the controls and heat distribution before resuming sales.
Have you encountered issues with the nationwide hoverboard fire risk? If so, you might want to ask the retailer if they’re willing to offer you a refund like Amazon does.
[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]