Hoverboards: A Look at the Safety of a New Type of Light Electric Vehicle
The recent increase in reports of hoverboards experiencing major safety faults, including a high risk of fire has dampened consumer confidence in these products and has seriously affected sales in most markets.
The lack of specific safety standards for this category of products is negatively impacting both manufacturers and consumers, with some markets banning them altogether. New standards are in the pipeline and they promise to close existing regulatory gaps.
Hoverboards have been investigated both in the EU and in North America for a wide range of safety hazards, the most frequent being faulty cut-off switches, lithium batteries and non-compliant plugs. Reports have indicated instances of overheating of batteries and of the drivetrain, causing the device to switch off automatically. The switching off of the drive train usually leads to a deactivation of the positioning controls, which inevitably results in a sudden stop that causes the hovercraft operator to fall down. Furthermore, overheating batteries have resulted in several devices suddenly catching fire. All these hazardous scenarios are a direct result of a lack of relevant and binding safety standards.
The lack of harmonized standards affects principally manufacturers, who don’t have specific product development and verification standards to guide their production processes. While at a first glance the lack of standards might seem like a great way to create innovative and cost-effective products, the resulting high rate of faulty and unsafe devices proves to be a huge turn-off for consumers in the long run. The lack of specific standards also affects market surveillance bodies, who are unable to draw on relevant standards as a basis for evaluating hoverboards placed on the market.
Standardization and Relevant Market Surveillance is on the Way
With a lack of general safety standards for light electric vehicles in the EU, the drafting of a European standard was initiated at the end of 2013, with the participation of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) Consumer Council. The new standard is intended to set basic safety requirements for light electric vehicles. This includes both requirements for mechanical components such as vehicle frames and final product assemblies, as well as requirements for electrical components. In addition to the battery and charger, the electrical component requirements are intended to cover the electronic traction control and functional safety of the software that controls the device.
To date, the drafts for a light electric vehicles standard have not taken into account the specific requirements for hoverboards. However, the unusually high number of safety issues encountered with hoverboards currently available on the market suggests that the standard needs to be adapted to cover these types of vehicles. According to the German DIN Consumer Council, drafting efforts for the current standard are on the right track. Before the draft can be published some technical adjustments and editorial changes are still necessary. These consist of:
- Inclusion of hoverboards in the standard for light electric vehicles
- Incorporation of a vibration test and a fatigue test of the complete vehicle
- Checking electrical requirements against the standard for electric bicycles
- Requiring the creation of a uniform charging interface
- Specifying the requirements applicable to reflectors and lighting based on the standard for bicycle lights
- Clarification of the provisions on maximum permitted speeds
What To Do Until the New Harmonized Standard Comes into Force
To help hoverboard manufacturers with the regulatory challenges posed by non-compliant devices, SGS has developed a range of relevant testing protocols. This new testing package can help ensure that products destined for the EU and US markets meet the requirements of all regulations relevant for these types of devices, including those covering products for adults and children.
Manufacturers working on the design of new products or those trying to demonstrate compliance for products that have already shipped, can have their technical documentation reviewed by SGS’s team of consumer electronics experts to identify any potential gaps or issues. Furthermore, SGS can offer clients a complete product evaluation service, that includes:
- Performance tests
- Critical safety tests
- Construction checks
- Marking and labeling reviews
- Instruction manual reviews
Which EU and US Regulations are Currently Relevant for Hoverboards?
- Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC
- Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive 2004/108/EC (EMC) – already applicable in April 2016 by 2014/30/EU
- Low Voltage Directive 2006/95/EC (LVD) – already applicable in April 2016 by 2014/35/EU
- RoHS Directive 2011/65/EU
- REACH Regulation 1907/2006 Annex XVII
- UL 1310: Standard for Class 2 Power Units
- UL 1012: Standard for Power Units Other Than Class 2
- UL 2272: Outline of Investigation for Electrical Systems for Self- Balancing Scooters
- ASTM F2641: relevant parts of standard for Recreational Powered Scooters and Pocket Bikes
Additionally, the global regulation for transportation ‘UN38.3: Transportation Testing for Lithium Batteries’ also applies to hoverboards.
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For further information please contact your local SGS representative or the global team.
Global Battery and Accumulator Technical Manager
t: +1 770 570 1838
Leader of Global Competence Center
SGS TÜV SAAR
t: +49 89 787475 270
Hardlines Senior Technical Manager
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