With multiple fires and injuries over the past year, hoverboards are a stark reminder that getting items to market quickly is not always best.
Many celebrity sightings on the devices, combined with a huge desire to have the latest trend in transportation, meant that hoverboards (officially known as self-balancing scooters) were the craze last holiday season with many manufacturers trying to get to market quickly. Unfortunately, this desire to take advantage of the latest trend meant problems for those who bought the product.
Since August 2015, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has investigated more than 60 hoverboard fires in 20 states. Therefore, UL worked quickly to create new safety requirements, UL 2272 Safety of Electrical Systems for Self-Balancing Scooters, to help ensure that consumers are protected from fires starting from the electrical system, not injuries from learning to use the product.
Best Magazine highlighted Ken Boyce in “Hoverboards: From seasonal headline to safety standards in short order” in its Spring 2016 issue. As a director of UL’s principal engineers, Ken leads the technical team dedicated to battery and energy storage technology. Their focus is to develop programs that prove safe battery and battery product design and development in the manufacturing process, including batteries used in hoverboards.
In the article, Boyce said, “As battery designs rapidly evolve, it is imperative to stay on the cutting edge of technology, proving that innovations do not bring latent hazards and that safety improvements effectively accomplish their objectives.”
He then discussed the growth of hoverboards and the dangers they bring with them. “Some of these [hoverboard] companies did not have the required background in safe battery integrations, coordination of the system comprised of the charger, batteries and load; and battery management systems design. The lack of applicable safety standards meant there were no clear guidelines about how to address these issues.”
Therefore, UL quickly conducted the technical work to define those safety requirements for hoverboards. Beginning February 2, 2016, UL began accepting hoverboard products for testing according to the requirement of the newly published UL 2272. With UL working with industry leaders and experts, Boyce said that part of the process was reaching out to consumers to let them know about the dangers and then working to decide on a consensus about safety.
Obtaining the certification to UL 2272 complies with the details outlined in the CPSC letter to manufacturers, importers and retailers issued on February 18, 2016. This letter urged them to make certain that the self-balancing scooters they import, manufacture, distribute or sell in the United States comply with currently applicable voluntary safety standards, including all referenced standards and requirements contained in UL 2272.
UL is completing evaluations, safety testing, and compliance with the requirements that include battery chargers and power supplies. UL 2272 certification does not address riding safety, and UL stresses that proper safety precautions—such as wearing a helmet—should be taken when using self-balancing scooters.
To identify hoverboard models that have been UL certified in the marketplace, consumers should look for the UL Enhanced Mark, a holographic label to deter counterfeiting on the product. All UL certified self-balancing scooter models can be found in UL’s certification database by visiting www.ul.com/databaseand then entering a manufacturer’s name under the UL Category Code “FKIS.” The list of certified products is updated continually as more product manufacturers are certified to the specifications.
To learn more about UL’s safety testing and certification of hoverboards, visit http://ul.com/hoverboards.
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