Many retailers, including Amazon, have halted the sale of certain so-called ‘hoverboard’ products, also known as Mini Segways, due to fears that some use lithium-ion batteries which are prone to combustion.
The International Business Times reports that while these hoverboards were one of the biggest-selling gift items of Christmas 2015, a spate of complaints following instances of these devices catching fire and even exploding has generated global media coverage. Experts believe that the culprit in most cases will be the cheap batteries that have been chosen by manufacturers to power their gliding self-balancing machines.
A number of cases of the boards setting themselves alight while being plugged in to recharge have been reported, although there are cases of models also combusting while in use.
Observers have pointed out that these hazards are not present on any of the high-end models because these all make use of high-quality custom battery packs. Meanwhile, the budget-oriented alternatives, which have flooded the market in recent weeks, have been put together with cheaper components and thus are much more likely to suffer from faults that could turn out to put users in danger of physical harm – not to mention the destruction of property which could also result from a battery fire.
“Cheaper Batteries are Not Meeting Standards”
Wired quotes academic and battery expert, Professor Jay Whitacre, and points out that the production of inexpensive lithium-ion batteries has ramped up in China, with these cells not meeting the same standards in terms of either performance or safety as those produced by better-known brands.
Whitacre specifically points to problems with the alignment of the anode and cathode as being one of the potential hazards present in cheap batteries which could lead to a short circuit and ultimately the battery to overheat.
When a board is charging, is operating at full speed or is impacted by another object during use, this could set off the chain reaction described by many owners which poses the most significant problem in terms of safety.
Whitacre further indicates that issues with cheaply made batteries can arise if they are not protected from overcharging, and so, the advice to consumers is to avoid the budget hoverboards and instead spend a bit more money to get peace of mind.
Meanwhile, businesses building products using lithium-ion batteries will see from this scandal that investing in high-quality custom battery packs is a cost-effective idea that will protect the reputation of an organisation and its products.