Just as hoverboards started to look like the personal transportation method of the future, owners across the country have begun reporting that their units are bursting into flames right beneath their feet.
And now, after already removing a number of popular hoverboard brands from its website, Amazon is now planning to offer anyone who bought a hoverboard through the online marketplace a full refund in hopes of getting ahead of any issues with explosions.
"I am pleased that at least one leading retailer is erring on the side of caution and taking action now, " U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission head Elliot F. Kaye said in a public statement. "I want to commend Amazon for voluntarily stepping up, providing a free remedy and putting customer safety first."
The problem with hoverboards, Kaye explained, was mostly linked directly to quality control. Despite the fact that certain hoverboard components like battery packs were approved by Underwriters Laboratories, a prominent American safety certification company, they weren't actually approved to be used in hoverboards.
At present, there are no standards for hoverboard certification with the UL, which may have led to unsafe products making their way to market.
The logic behind why hoverboards are exploding is actually pretty straightforward. Like most rechargeable electronics, hoverboards use lithium-ion batteries. In an effort to keep production costs down, manufacturers often choose to use batteries of lower quality that might not be well suited to handle the kind of bumps and physical abuse that a hoverboard is bound to endure.
These types of batteries tend not to be able to withstand too much impact, which can puncture their protective housing, disrupting the electrical current that makes the battery function and causing combustion.
“Small defects in the manufacturing or materials stream lead to the plus/minus sides of the batteries being shorted with each other after a small amount of use,"Carnegie Mellon professor Jay Whitacre told Wired. "When this happens, especially when the batteries are charged, a lot of heat is generated inside the cells and this leads to electrolyte boiling, the rupture of the cell casing, and then a significant fire.”
As for those who are keeping their hoverboards, despite the safety risks, the CPSC recommends an additional purchase: a fire extinguisher.