We’ve got answers to all your burning questions about hoverboards and hoverboard safety!
Are Hoverboards Safe?
When considering if hoverboards are dangerous, there are two different topics we need to discuss. First, the product recalls for hoverboards catching fire. And second, without a handlebar to hold onto, the potential for a child to fall over and seriously injure themselves. We’ll cover both of these issues in our answers to the questions below.
1. Which hoverboards are catching fire?
Hoverboards catching fire has been an issue since they first came on the market in 2015, and continues to be an issue today. The first, and largest, recall occurred in 2016 when the CPSC issued a recall for over 500,000 hoverboards from 10 different companies. (CPSC = Consumer Product Safety Commission)
The stated reason for this recall was: “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.”
Since the 2016 recall, there were several additional recalls in 2017, and one in 2021, for a total of over 750,000 recalled hoverboards to date. In every instance, the recall was due to the lithium-ion battery packs that could overheat, catch fire, and/or explode.
Most of the recalls are for brands you’ve probably never heard of, or no longer exist, with the exception of Razor and Swagtron (formerly Swagway). That said, almost all hoverboards use lithium-ion batteries. You should be cautious with ANY brand of hoverboard.
2. How can I prevent my hoverboard from catching fire?
According to the CPSC and guidance from respected manufacturers like Swagtron and GoTrax, there are several things you should always do to minimize risk when using a hoverboard.
- Only use the charger that came with the hoverboard. Even within the same brand, different models will have different chargers which are not interchangeable. Using the wrong charger can damage the battery and/or lead to overheating. Hoverboard chargers are often sold on Amazon, but we recommend going straight to the manufacturer to purchase a new charger if you lose yours.
- Never leave a hoverboard charging longer than necessary. Do not leave a hoverboard to charge overnight, or charge it somewhere you can’t monitor it (i.e. the garage, or while you run errands.) Overcharging the battery can lead to overheating.
- Be aware of the weather. Riding (and especially charging) hoverboards under 32 degrees or over 104 degrees can damage the battery.
- Make sure your hoverboards is UL 2272 certified. We’ll go into this next, but this is a safety certification that ensures the electrical system of the board has passed basic requirements.
3. UL 2272 Certification
In early 2016, the CPSC issued a letter urging (but essentially requiring) all hoverboards in the US to comply with the voluntary UL 2272 safety standard, which covers “Electrical Systems for Self-balancing Scooters.” According to the letter, “Self-balancing scooters that do not meet these voluntary safety standards pose an unreasonable risk of fire to consumers.” (Self-balancing scooter is a synonym for hoverboard.)
First piece of advice: NEVER EVER EVER buy a hoverboard that is not UL 2272 certified. How can you tell if it’s UL certified? The listing on Amazon or the manufacturer’s website will state if it is UL certified. But the true test is that the hoverboard will have a hologram label on its underbelly, indicating so.
Second piece of advice: UL 2272 certification does not guarantee that your battery will not overheat or catch fire. Many UL 2272 compliant hoverboards have caught fire. Exercise caution when riding or charging any hoverboard.
4. Hoverboard battery types
The issue of hoverboard batteries is quite fascinating but also quite detailed. If you’d like to read an excellent blog on the topic, as well as watch a fun video, Swagtron has done a great job of breaking down the specifics. Here, we’ll just cover hoverboard batteries briefly.
Most hoverboards have lithium-ion batteries. Every hoverboard that has been recalled by the CPSC had a lithium-ion battery pack.
So if lithium-ion batteries are such a problem, why do most hoverboards use them? Despite the potential safety issues, they (1) are small, (2) have high energy density, and (3) are cost effective. Over the years, lithium-ion batteries have gotten safer, in part due to battery management systems (BMS) that prevent the battery voltage from reaching unsafe levels. However, they still have plenty of risk factors, even with the new BMS. Safer battery technology is simply more expensive.
LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) is a newer type of lithium-ion battery that is considered to be much safer than the standard lithium-ion batteries used in hoverboards. Currently, Swagtron is the only brand to be using LiFePO4 batteries in their hoverboards. Despite the higher cost of these safer batteries, Swagtron has worked hard to keep the prices of their hoverboards affordable.
Why is LiFePO4 a safer battery? The chemistry of this specific lithium ion is much more stable, and according to Swagtron, “LiFePO4 batteries won’t combust, explode or burn up while riding or charging or from puncture or damage during use as intended.” Even Tesla is moving to lithium-iron-phosphate technology for their standard-range electric car batteries.
5. Hoverboard Age – How Old Should a Child Be?
Most hoverboards are recommended for kids 8 years old and older. That said, only you know your child. Riding a hoverboard does require quite a bit of balance and coordination that doesn’t always develop by a certain age.
Additionally, hoverboards for kids have different max speeds – anywhere from about 6 mph to 9 mph. You should consider your child’s age and ability along with the hoverboard’s max speed when deciding which board to purchase. Some hoverboards have “training modes” that set the max MPH lower when a child is learning.
6. Will my child fall and hurt themselves?
Just like bicycles and scooters, hoverboards can certainly be dangerous if not used with caution. Hoverboards are unique in that without any handlebars to hold onto, a child may be more likely to fall off a hoverboard than a standard scooter. Some pediatricians advise against hoverboards as they’ve seen an uptick in ER visits from hoverboard accidents.
How Does a Hoverboard Work?
If you’re a little disappointed that hoverboards don’t actually hover in the air like in Back to the Future, so are we. Hopefully we’ll achieve that level of tech someday, but in the meantime, here are answers to questions about how hoverboards work today.
How to Ride a Hoverboard
Many parents won’t even attempt to ride a hoverboard. What looks so effortless for kids would surely result in disaster for mom or dad, right??? While the process may look intimidating for adults, most kids seem to pick it up quite naturally. Essentially, it’s all about shifting your weight on the pressure-sensitive footpads, which then tell the hoverboard’s logic board (brain) what to do.
MOVE FORWARD: Press your toes down with equal pressure on both feet, then lean forward slightly. The more you lean forward, the faster you will go until you hit your board’s max MPH.
MOVE BACKWARD: Lift your toes up, then lean slightly backward.
STOP: Stand upright and place normal pressure on your feet. You’d be surprised how quickly a hoverboard actually stops without a traditional “brake”.
TURN RIGHT OR LEFT: How to turn varies depending on the brand of hoverboard you have. It usually involves either leaning to the left or right, or adjusting the toe pressure of the left or right foot on the footpads.
GETTING ON AND OFF: Mount and dismount the hoverboard at the rear of the hoverboard. Place one foot on the hoverboard first, then quickly place the second foot next to it.
Are all hoverboards self-balancing?
This term can be misleading, so read carefully! Since the beginning, hoverboards have also been called “self-balancing hoverboards” or “self-balancing scooters”. But there is also something called “self-balancing mode”.
As with most technology, over time, the tech of hoverboards has advanced. Today’s hoverboards are easier to balance than when they first came out in 2015 due to a newer technology called “self-balancing mode”.
In self-balancing mode, the left and right platforms of the hoverboard automatically level out, making it easier to get on and off. Additionally, the internal gyroscope is designed to react to your movements and make it easier to keep your balance.
While there are still a few hoverboards out there without a self-balancing mode, it is now pretty much standard on most boards. If the board you are interested in doesn’t indicate that it has a self-balancing mode, move on to your next option!
Many hoverboards for kids have the ability to turn off the self-balancing mode. When turned off, the hoverboard is more jerky and more difficult to balance. This mode is not meant for riding, but is necessary if you’ll be using a hoverboard go-cart accessory.
Hoverboard Speed – How fast does a hoverboard go?
Most hoverboards for kids have maximum speeds of between 6 mph and 8 mph. There are a few kids hoverboards with max speeds of 9 mph, while adult hoverboards can max out at about 12 mph.
These speeds are slower than a traditional electric scooter for kids, which have speeds ranging from 7.5 mph to 10 mph.
While a hoverboard has a designated max speed, how fast you can actually go will depend quite a bit on riding factors. Things like rider weight, smoothness of terrain, and incline will all limit how fast the hoverboard can go.
Some hoverboards have different speed modes which allow parents to set the max MPH lower when a child is first learning.
Hoverboards with a higher max speed generally have motors with higher power, for example dual 250 W motors (500 W) vs dual 200 W motors (400 W). Higher powered motors are also important to be able to achieve higher speeds on all-terrain surfaces or with heavier riders.
How long does it take to charge a hoverboard?
Every hoverboard is different, but it generally takes between 4 and 5 hours to fully charge a hoverboard. Be sure to consult your user manual, as allowing a hoverboard to charge longer than necessary can lead to the battery overheating and potentially catching fire.
How long does a hoverboard battery last?
Depending on the brand and model, a hoverboard battery lasts between about 3 and 7 miles of ride time. Cheaper hoverboards usually have shorter riding times (~3 miles), while more expensive hoverboards tend to have longer riding times per battery charge (5 – 7 miles).
Keep in mind that your ride time per battery charge is affected by many factors, including how often you stop and start, rider weight, and the incline you are riding.