Hoverboards explode due to faulty batteries


hoverboard
Photo by Susmita Paruchuri |

Hoverboards injured 29 people enough to force emergency room visits in five months last year. They also caused at least 10 fires.


In an email sent to all Rutgers University students last month, the Department of Emergency Services issued a temporary ban on all “hoverboards," according to The Daily Targum

These hoverboards, which are described in the email as “hands-free segways," have recently been in the news for exploding and catching fire in dramatic fashion.

Many believe the cause for these explosions reside in the lithium-ion batteries that power the hoverboards. These batteries have occasionally been responsible for fires, at one point grounding every Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Li-ion batteries are extremely common and usually not dangerous, as they are used in cell phones, laptops and even electric cars. They are small, lightweight and hold a lot of energy, so they tend to be popular with manufacturers in comparison to lead-acid batteries or alkaline batteries.

These batteries work by transferring lithium ions, or charged particles from the negatively charged part to the positively charged part, creating an electric current. The anode, which is the negative side, and cathode, the positive side, are kept apart by a semi-permeable separator, which the lithium ions can flow through.

Lead-acid batteries work similarly to Li-ion batteries in that they use a positive and negative part to create an electric current. They are much bigger and slightly more complicated than Li-ion batteries to manufacture

Alkaline batteries are small and cheap to mass-produce, but have issues with leaking. Most alkaline batteries are also not rechargeable.

While alkaline batteries are less susceptible to fire, they also pose hazards during disposal. Most devices using them also require several batteries, creating a new problems with logistics. Old and new batteries cannot be mixed, as the current differential can cause shorts, leaks or small explosions.

If the separator is punctured, the anode and cathode can come together and create a short circuit. This quick discharging results in a large current and subsequently a large amount of released energy, causing a fire and possibly an explosion.

While many well-manufactured Li-ion batteries contain not only well made separators but also many safeguards to prevent a short circuit, the third party batteries used by some manufacturers may not. A more fragile separator means that if the hoverboard is put under enough stress where the battery is stored, it can easily catch fire.

Overcharging these batteries can also result in fire, along with overuse.

So far these fires have resulted in 29 emergency room visits, along with 10 different fires in nine different states.

The simple solution to preventing hoverboard fires is to simply not get one, or if you have one, not to use it or charge it on or off campus.

If you really insist on getting one for home use, it is recommended to get a higher quality hoverboard from a trustworthy location, as they are more likely to have fail-safe circuitry.

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Michael Makmur is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in astrophysics. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @AngryPatriotFan for more.


Michael Makmur

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