Before you go buying the latest fad toy for your kids (or yourself) this Christmas, think again. Your self-balancing smart electric scooter — or hoverboard, if you want to call it that — might catch fire while charging.
(Before we start, let’s ignore the fact that hoverboard is a stupid name for a second. Nothing is hovering, you’re not hovering, your feet are touching something that is touching the ground. This is a hoverboard and it’s massively impractical.)
Choice says that a problem with several different hoverboards’ charging systems has led to fires in the US, UK and Hong Kong: “We are aware of a number of overseas reports of hoverboards catching fire while charging with incidents being reported in Hong Kong, England and United States.”
The issue arises when these hoverboards are overcharged — left plugged in until their batteries reach 100 per cent capacity. While we’re used to our laptops, smartphones and tablets having (relatively) smart charging technology inside their chargers that limits the voltage and current output to a trickle once a device is fully charged, these hoverboards are clearly missing this circuitry.
This is a massive oversight on the part of the manufacturers, and it is the kind of thing that can put lives at risk. If you do own or intend on buying a hoverboard, ensure that it is not left on charge after its batteries are full; you may be inadvertently setting your electronic gadget up to overcharge, catch fire and cause serious damage to your property.
Choice has reviewed three different
hoverboards self-balancing scooters, starting at $799. The scooters are only legal on paths or public land in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, and cannot be used by kids under 12. Says Choice:
What to look for when purchasing a self-balancing scooter:
An easy to read manual
A short battery charge time
A long distance claim (meaning a longer charge will be maintained from the battery)
An inflatable tyre but make sure they are topped up with air to the required level
Weight of the scooter if you need to carry it
Safety warning features when approaching maximum speed
The self-balancing motorised scooters that are popularly called hoverboards are this year’s must-have Christmas gift. But even if you’re dying to go out and get your hands on one, Gizmodo is here to let you know whether you really should.
First things first, it’s worth noting that hoverboards are actually illegal — at least in public. Roads Minister Duncan Gay recently issued a statement promising fines of $637 for riding these contraptions on public roads, and a fine of $319 for riding on public footpaths, SMH reports. He cited safety concerns as one of the foremost reasons for this decision, saying that the hoverboards would not be able to adequately signal if ridden on the roads. They also don’t provide enough protection in case of a collision. It is, however, perfectly legal to ride a hoverboard in the confines of your own home.
Hoverboards aren’t really designed for outside use, and are best ridden inside on soft carpeted surfaces — using it on rough or hard ground may wear away the grip on the tyres. A fall from one of these can be potentially dangerous, so it’s worthwhile to take adequate safety precautions before buying one, especially if you’re getting one for the kids. Safety gear like a helmet, knee, wrist and elbow pads come highly recommended, especially when you consider that the Revo Glider can reach speeds up to 12km/h, and other hoverboards are capable of reaching even faster speeds.
Questions, comments, tips? You can find me on Twitter at @csimps0n.