Hoverboards are very popular holiday gifts this year, but the stories about the boards that explode are all over the news. Many retailers including Amazon.com and Target stopped selling them, and several commercial airlines banned them aboard their aircraft.
So what happened in the manufacture of these items to make them so dangerous? In the reported incidents, the lithium ion batteries in the hoverboards caught fire while charging or just riding them. The reasons for the combustion process is well-known when a battery is defective. The problems with these batteries were identified in laptops and cell phones a few years ago. What isn’t so transparent are the sourcing and manufacturing processes for the boards being produced in China.
Hoverboards are new, exciting and popular products and this combination creates a frenzy of manufacturing opportunity for Chinese manufacturers. Because of the popularity and the potential for high volumes and high profits, knock-off brands proliferate very fast in the extremely competitive changed to avoid patent infringement laws. The raw materials sourcing for knock-offs may come from completely different suppliers. Cheaper knock-off products means cutting corners in the factory to keep production costs low.
US safety standards are not all in place yet for these new products. US Customs may be allowing imports to enter the US based on safety standards for similar products, following the current requirements for imports. Some manufacturers may have obtained UL certificates on certain component parts, but not for the hoverboard as a whole. Raw materials such as the actual batteries may be knock-offs, too. You cannot trust the well-known top brands either. The high demand is likely to cause sourcing from multiple Chinese factories with limited experience and untested component suppliers. No Chinese agency is overseeing the quality of exports from China.