Underwriters Laboratories Reveals How It Tests Hoverboard Safety

This is a hoverboard tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

This is a hoverboard tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Earlier this month, Underwriters Laboratories announced that for the first time it would start testing and certifying “hoverboards.” However, the independent safety consulting and certification company didn’t actually specify how it would test the self-balancing scooters. 

That changed yesterday when UL pulled back the curtain on its Illinois testing facility and outlined how it determines if a hoverboard is safe or if it should be considered hazardous and defective by federal regulators.

Tech Times reports that UL’s tests, which culminate in a device being given or denied a UL 2272 certification, only focus on the mechanical and electrical systems of the hoverboards, and not their overall safety. So the tests are more about whether or not the device will explode when charging, rather than if you’ll skin your knee when you fall off.

The issue with many of the exploding hoverboards lies in the lithium-ion batteries that are used to charge the scooters. The rechargeable batteries can be jostled easily while in use and short circuit, which can cause a fire.

As part of the evaluations, UL employees drop hoverboards from a height of one meter, puncture the batteries with nails, jam the wheels, and run the devices for seven hours straight.

By jamming the wheels, UL says it is checking to see if the device will overheat as it tries to free itself during the seven-hour test. Shooting nails into the scooter’s batteries allow researchers to see if the lithium-ion cell would burst, leading to a fire.

If the device fails any of these tests, it will not receive a UL certificate, Tech Times reports. And if devices don’t obtain the certification, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has said it will deem the devices hazardous and defective.

The CPSC last week urged hoverboard makers and sellers to voluntarily take non-UL compliant scooters off the market immediately.

The CPSC “considers self-balancing scooters that do not meet the safety standards referenced above to be defective, and that they may present a substantial product hazard,” the notice states. “Consumers risk serious injury or death if their self-balancing scooters ignite and burn. … Should the staff encounter such products at import, we may seek detention and/or seizure. In addition, if we encounter such products domestically, we may seek a recall of these products.”

The notice, which makes it clear that if companies don’t fallow new safety standards they can face enforcement actions such as seizure of products and civil or criminal penalties, aims to hold device makers accountable for failing to comply with the safety standards.

“From Dec. 1, 2015 through Feb. 17, 2016, the CPSC received reports, from consumers in 24 states of self-balancing scooter fires resulting in over $2 million in property damage, including the destruction of two homes and an automobile,” the notice states. “We believe that many of the reported incidents and the related unreasonable risk of injuries and deaths associated with fires in these products would be prevented if all such products were manufactured in compliance” with UL safety standards.

Since the CPSC’s notice, at least three retailers — Amazon, Target, and Toys ‘R’ Us — have pulled hoverboards from their websites.

UL Reveals How It Tests Safety Of Hoverboards While Swagway Does U-Turn [Tech Times]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.