May 21, 2019
Segway, the personal transportation manufacturer, wanted to take movement to another level. Cities were growing and becoming more congested as people fought for space to move on crowded roads and sidewalks. Segway envisioned a new way for people to get from home to work, one that would revolutionize personal mobility — the Segway Personal Transporter or Segway PT.
Patented in 2001 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Segway PTs would be a sustainable alternative to walking. Their use of batteries over fuel would benefit the environment.
Once introduced to the market, niche groups of enthusiasts embraced the device, and on a larger scale, police and security guards utilized the devices to patrol an area. Sightseers cruised through city streets in a single-file line as part of Segway tours through some U.S. cities.
At 100 pounds though, the Segway was massive with heavy-duty batteries to support device operation. Its weight prohibited its mobility as the device was too heavy to carry upstairs. Parking the device proved to be impossible, also, with local jurisdictions not knowing how to treat the Segway. On the sidewalk? In the streets? No one knew.
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Fast-forward to 2015. Segway’s patent was elapsing, and other companies saw an opportunity to create smaller, “toy-like” self-balancing scooters. The revised products were small enough for people to carry while durable enough to hold the weight of an adult. A new market was created overnight as self-balancing scooters, known as “hoverboards,” began appearing in vast quantities around the world.
Celebrities and influencers posted videos of themselves riding around their homes and neighborhoods, setting the trend for the public to do the same. However, problems arose with the devices.
At first, injuries occurred due to improperly using the device and falling off while trying to stay balanced; however, there were more significant problems to come. News, videos and images of hoverboards self-igniting and exploding began to spread rapidly on social media.
Five days before Thanksgiving 2015, a Lafitte, Louisiana, homeowner “saw flames shooting from both ends” of a charging hoverboard battery. In another incident, a charging hoverboard exploded in a Hong Kong flat, while in London, 20 firefighters responded to a hoverboard fire on Nov. 9, 2015.
Such incidents became far too common among owners.
To help address concerns with hoverboard safety, UL worked within the industry and with organizations such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to introduce UL 2272, the Standard for Electrical Systems for e-Mobility Devices, in January 2016.
Expanded in late 2016, UL 2272 now covers all personal e-Mobility devices, including e-skateboards and smaller e-scooters, and applies to a single-rider device with a rechargeable electric drive train that may or may not be self-balancing.
In addition to the work UL has done with UL 2272, another key area of personal mobility revolves around the electrification of bicycles, for which UL is currently developing requirements.
UL 2272 is a holistic safety Standard addressing the market need for safe, electric-based personal mobility. It includes both construction and test requirements as well as verification of markings and instruction manual guidelines.
Beyond UL 2272 with UL 2849 for e-Bikes
The e-mobility market has evolved over the past decade to include e-bikes, roadworthy e-scooters and e-motorcycles. In keeping up, UL created a separate Standard – UL 2849, Outline of Investigation for Electric Bicycles, Electrically Power Assisted Cycles (EPAC Bicycles), Electric Scooters and Electric Motorcycles – that would cover these type of sit-down, up-to-two-rider-transport vehicles.
UL 2849 addresses the needs of similar battery-operated vehicle products, such as electric-pedal-assisted bicycles and electric-throttle-based bicycles, as well as roadworthy e-scooters and e-motorbikes meeting federal regulations for roadworthy vehicles.
"UL’s work in the personal e-transportation market is to serve our public safety mission, and to do our part to help accelerate the safe adoption of personal e-transportation in a rapidly evolving industry,” said Ibrahim Jilani, Consumer Technology product safety director at UL.
“UL offers our services to the industry and procurers to achieve safe, secure and sustainable personal electric transportation vehicles for all people,” Jilani said. “We look forward to the future when that is the reality we all get to enjoy.”
UL continues to research and test safety issues related to personal e-mobility devices as well as the broader category of personal e-transportation. Want more information? Read about e-scooters and e-bikes, or contact UL for more details.