Own a hoverboard? Feds say get yourself a fire extinguisher, too

Ben Larcey/Creative Commons
You know the hoverboard safety situation is serious when a high-ranking safety official tells owners to keep a fire extinguisher with their machine at all times.

The advice comes courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in an update to its investigation into the personal transporter published on Wednesday.

The board – one of the hot-ticket items of the holiday season – has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently following incidents around the world where it’s burst into flames while plugged into the wall. In the U.S., the CPSC says it’s so far received reports of 39 hoverboard fires in 19 states.

Dodgy batteries and components have been blamed, with many of the poorly made boards coming from inexperienced “tech” companies keen to cash in on the craze.

Some reports suggest the device, which doesn’t really hover at all but instead trundles along on two wheels, can also catch fire when not being charged due to a fault with – or damage to – the on-board battery.

Fire safety concerns have even forced a slew of major airlines to ban the device from planes in recent months, while Amazon last month took down listings for the product while it conducted its own investigations.

CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye said in his report the commission’s investigators and engineers are continuing “to work diligently to find the root cause of the hoverboard fires that have occurred throughout the country,” with particular attention being paid to “the components of the lithium-ion battery packs as well as their interaction with the circuit boards inside the units.” The commission is currently examining the safety of hoverboards made by these companies.

Besides keeping a fire extinguisher close by, Kaye sensibly suggests charging the device “in an open area away from combustible materials.” Yes, some serious hoverboard-related house fires have indeed made headlines in recent months.

The report also voiced concerns about injuries from hoverboard tumbles, something Mike Tyson knows all about.

Kaye said that while it’s tempting to dismiss falls as nothing more than user inexperience, he’s concerned that current hoverboard designs don’t consider 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, especially a first-time user.”

He added that because of the “increasing number of serious injuries,” investigators are now examining the design of the boards to see if they can be improved.

Hopefully all this somewhat gloomy publicity won’t have put you off jumping back on your board, but just take care when you do. And get yourself an extinguisher, too.

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