Over half a million self-balancing scooters/hoverboards have been recalled in the United States following approximately 100 incidents of the boards catching fire or exploding. On Wednesday, July 6, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a safety announcement detailing the hazard, “The lithium-ion battery packs in the self-balancing scooters/hoverboards can overheat, posing a risk of the products smoking, catching fire and/or exploding.” The incident reports included burn injuries and property damage.
All batteries carry a safety risk. Jay Whitacre, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, states lithium-based batteries contain a flammable electrolyte. They become increasingly hot during the charging process, especially if over-charged. The quality and consistency of the batteries can certainly play a part. The cheap “low cost li-ion batteries” being used in the hoverboards pose a serious threat regardless of whether the device is charging or in use. Cheaper batteries have a higher likelihood for design flaws involving the electrode, separator, electrolyte or processes. These inherent defects result in the batteries increased susceptibility to damage.
The CPSC urges owners of recalled devices to immediately stop using them. The organization states that devices not part of the recall should be properly disposed of since they present a safety concern to consumers. Retailers and manufacturers are recalling the devices because of the significant risks. The list of recalled devices can be found on the CPSC site. The affected scooters/hoverboards were sold during June 2015 through May 2016, and were valued between $350 and $900. Consumers can contact the recalling manufacturer/company for a refund, repair or replacement.