How safe are hoverboards?
Aside from the natural concerns of balancing and falling off, there are much more serious concerns. Namely: “How do I know that the product will not explode, melt, or catch fire when I’m charging it?”
Indeed, there have been several mishaps of late, related to the charging mechanism in these hoverboards. To understand why, it helps to have some background knowledge of the product.
There are over 20 factories in China that make these things. Some are reputable, and some are not. When you order off of eBay, Amazon, or Alibaba, you are likely buying from a re-seller who imports them. Maybe they buy a quality product, or maybe they buy from the lowest bidder to earn more profit on the turnaround. In other words, it’s a gamble. When someone buys a new product from Amazon, the last thing on their mind is burning the kitchen down, but it is worth considering. In fact, it has happened to at least two people in the UK within the last 6 months. So, the first step is to buy from a reputable source that does not use cheap electronics on the interior, especially the batteries and charging mechanism.
“These Ain’t Your Momma’s Batteries”
Hoverboards are powered by the newest generation of Lithium-Polimer, or “Li-Po” rechargeable batteries.
For those new to Li-Po batteries, they are different from previous battery technologies in that they maintain a nearly full charge right up until they are almost fully depleted, and then they are empty almost immediately. They produce a lot of power, and are prone to thermal runaway (meltdown) when overly depleted, so in addition to buying a quality product, we have a few more words of caution we would like to share with you.
First, because of this steep drop-off in power when the battery gets low, it is important to stop riding the board when the battery alarm starts. Although you can continue to ride it due to the constant voltage, doing so could reduce your long term battery life. If you continue to deplete the battery for just a minute or two longer, you can actually force it to a point from which it cannot recover, and it will no longer accept a charge at all. In this case, the battery is prone to get very hot and possibly damage other internal components. So, the moral of the story is: stop riding when the low battery alarm (continuous beeping) starts.
Secondly, unlike other kinds of batteries, it is not recommended to store a li-po battery with a full charge, as this will also reduce the long term battery life. The good news here is that our engineers have already thought of this, and our chargers use a simple red-light/green-light charging system. When the charger turns green, the battery is optimally charged for safety, battery life, and a sufficient battery duration. The word of caution here is that you should unplug the charger when it turns green so that you don’t continue to charge your board. Doing so COULD, yep, you got it, reduce the battery life. There is circuitry in place to prevent this, but it is always a good practice to unplug a li-po battery whenever it is not charging, in case that circuitry fails. Use the protection as a backup, not as your going-in plan.
So it’s easy: Buy from a dealer who knows the importance of solid electronics, and set a 3 hour timer. Unplug the charger when your timer goes off or the light turns green.