Given the number of incident and injury reports it has received and investigated in recent months, it’s not surprising the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is recalling over 500,000 self-balancing scooters, aka hoverboards.
The recall involves the China-made products from ten U.S. companies who sold popular models, such as Razor’s Hovertrax, in the past year (June 2015-May 2016), via the internet or through mass retailers like Target. (While directed primarily to U.S. consumers, the recall is also a heads-up to Canadians who’ve purchased product online.)
It seems the main problem with the hoverboards concerns the lithium-ion battery packs, which power the vehicle. In recent months, the CPSC has received 99 incident reports of the battery packs overheating, sparking, smoking, catching fire and exploding. Because they’ve involved burn injuries and property damage, 60 of those incidents are undergoing further investigation.
Instability Also Named as Hazard
However, exploding battery packs are not the only issue. Apparently, the scooters’ footpads that control direction and speed are ultra sensitive to shifts in the rider’s weight and when encountering small obstacles like sticks or pebbles. This instability has resulted in countless falls and injuries, with the CPSC estimating more than 7,000 scooter-related visits to U.S. hospitals’ emergency rooms since last August.
CPSC’s concern has not ended with the recall. It has asked ASTM International, a well-known engineering standards body to develop new standards addressing the stability issue. And Underwriter Laboratories, a safety consulting company, has created a new certification process that addresses the mechanical problems.
But until these new specifications and standards are in place, the CPSC is advising riders to take responsibility for their own safety by wearing lots of protective gear, avoid riding near traffic, and to call on a “spotter” to aid in mounting or dismounting.
As for those manufacturers named in the recall, a full list is featured on the CPSC website and the agency urges consumers to contact the supplier for info on refunds, repairs, or replacement units.