Burning Boards: The danger (or lack thereof) of the boards and similar products

Illustration by Khoa Tran


Illustration by Khoa Tran
Illustration by Khoa Tran


Recently, these so-called hoverboards (or balancing scooters) which have appeared in the cultural mainstream have been banned from Georgia State campuses, as well as a number of other Georgia campuses, because many have proved to be fire hazards.

The boards have caught fire in many locales, including “Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Hong Kong, and London,” according to Quartz.

But one thing seems strange to me, which is the rapidity with which Georgia State chose to ban the devices. They really didn’t waste their time with making sure the devices wouldn’t be seen on campus for the foreseeable future.  And why?  Are they really that dangerous?

The earliest report I could find of one of these hoverboards catching fire was on November 29, 2015, in Louisiana, though the UK’s National Trading Standards industry declared many of their own imports unsafe as early as October.

Still, Georgia State moved to ban the devices a good amount of time before we reported it on January 18, 2016.  That’s hardly three months, and much of that time was taken up by the holidays.

Why did they ban them so quickly?  According to the email Georgia State sent to its students, we have the prepositional, “Because of fire concerns. . .” which isn’t very descriptive.

It’s only towards the end of the email we get any reasoning, “. . .the National Association of State Fire Marshals recently issued a warning after several incidents of scooters catching fire.”

But what incidents? Well, according to King5.com, this very warning related to an incident in Louisiana.  The same incident, it turns out, which happened on Nov. 29 that I mentioned earlier.

Apart from this incident and the ones I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t find hardly any instance of hoverboards catching fire or being dangerous beyond the understandable hazard of falling off of them and busting one’s head open.

Are we going to base our ban on a few isolated cases? Why not also ban some of the products on that long list of items recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission?  Many seem about as dangerous as these badly-manufactured hoverboards, and as far as I know, they’re not being recalled.

These hoverboards aren’t all bursting into flames all across the country.  We’re only looking at a few isolated instances.  

Considering how quickly Georgia State banned hoverboards, I suspect the decision was not so much a reaction to real danger as it was a desire to ally with other institutions that did it first.

Observing an apparent cultural distaste for the products, one example of which I found in the wording of our very own news brief which describes them as “wonky. . .thingamajigs,”  I doubt there was a lot of hesitation on the schools’ parts in banning them for whatever flimsy reason.

But, despite my personal gripes, danger does need to be addressed, and the danger of these boards seems to come from the lithium ion batteries. But it’s not just the lithium ion batteries, as such batteries “work the same way as the lithium-ion batteries in our smartphones, tablets, and laptops. They’re [the ones in the boards] just a lot more prone to defects,” according to Wired.

No, it’s not just the lithium ion batteries that are catching on fire.  It’s just that these flammable hoverboards are generally poorly made.

As much as 88% of hoverboards inspected since October are “‘unsafe,’ because of ‘issues with the plug, cabling, charger, battery, or the cut-off switch within the board, which often fails’, ”according to the UK’s National Trading Standards agency.

Yet, there are hoverboards which reliably don’t catch on fire. According to BestElectricHoverboard.com, the best models to buy (which presumably don’t catch fire) are the Razor Hovertrax Electric Self-Balancing Scooter and The Original Monster Wheel.  They’re apparently much better made (though considerably costlier).

If you want to buy working ones, try there first, but please do your own research. Also, don’t count on using them on any Georgia campus anytime soon. At least until this low-grade hysteria dies down.


  1. A few isolated incidents? There has been numerous incidences of hoverboard burnng houses down and catching fire. You “researched” this article but fail to even mention the fire(s) that occurred in our backyard in Augusta and at the Ritz-Carlton. Nor did you mention the mass banning of hoverboards across campuses around the nation at approximately the same time.

  2. It’s debatable whether the Hovertrax is the best hoverboard to buy, I looked at it and wasn’t very impressed. I don’t know if the hysteria will slow down now that the CPSC has declared them unsafe. What do you think?

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