Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has stepped into the hoverboard fray, trying to bring some order to the chaos around the infamously fire-prone gadgets.
UL, the respected testing firm that electronics manufacturers often use to certify the safety of their products, has established a hoverboard testing program that will serve as one of the nation’s first safety standards covering the whole device.
“It’s a little bit unusual that something is already on the market without anybody thinking about the components or what goes into it,” said UL consumer safety director John Drengenberg.
The tests cover the electronic drivetrain in the self-balancing scooters, including the rechargeable battery and charger systems, according to a news release from UL.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating at least 40 reports of fires related to hoverboards in 19 states, saying recently that it was “unacceptable” that no standards were in place for the products. The panel also is examining the safety of boards from 13 manufacturers, importers and distributors.
The scooters’ safety issues have become so troublesome that some airlines ban them from being brought aboard.
The issue with many of the exploding hoverboards originates with the lithium-ion batteries used to charge the machines. Usually tucked beneath one of the foot rests, these rechargeable batteries are easily jarred during use and can short-circuit, often causing a fire. Lower-quality batteries are more susceptible to damage, according to some reports.
UL has been testing and certifying battery cells and packs for years, it said. This new certification, called UL 2272, evaluates the hoverboard as a whole for fire and electrical safety.
“UL certification of components such as a battery pack or power supply in hoverboards is different from certification of the hoverboards themselves,” according to a statement on the company’s website. “For technology such as hoverboards that use lithium-ion batteries, it is important to understand the interaction among components.”
The lab is accepting submissions from retailers and manufacturers to begin the certification process. Testing of consumer products is voluntary for manufacturers, which often seek UL certification to assure consumers of their products’ safety.
Recently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it had seized more than 16,000 hoverboards worth about $6 million. Many of the boards came from China and had counterfeit UL seals of approval.
ASTM International, an international standards organization based in West Conshohocken, Pa., also is reportedly developing hoverboard safety standards.