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Self-Balancing Electric Scooter Hoverboard : Everything You Need To Know

Updated on January 2, 2017
Swagtron Hoverboard
Swagtron Hoverboard | Source

What is a Hoverboard?

A Hoverboard is a two-wheeled mobile device powered by a rechargeable battery. Also known as self-balancing electric scooter, a hoverboard have two platforms or pedals where the rider stands and through which the device's movement is controlled.

The term hoverboard is technically incorrect to use on these electric scooter because "hoverboard" originated from the popular film Back to the Future where a fictional floating or hovering skateboard was used. Much like what the Green Goblin used in the movie Spiderman, except that it actually flies and not just hover over the ground. Nevertheless, almost everyone calls it hoverboard so... hoverboard it is!

Origin of Hoverboard

Where hoverboard was invented or who invented it is not clear although it was definitely manufactured in China and came out in 2014. An inventor from US west coast named Shane Chen claimed he invented the first hoverboard that was meant as a toy for kids or adults but not practical as a means for transportation. Although he had a patent, that didn't stop Chinese factories from copying the concept and making millions of dollars from it. The popularity of the hoverboard in the US quickly rose from the celebrities posting videos on youtube and instagram of themselves riding one of these self-balancing electric scooters. How they got their hands in the early release to market of these hoverboards is hard to determine. Celebrities who first posted videos with their hoverboards include Wiz Khalifa, Justin Bieber, Kendal Jenner, Chris Brown, and Jamie Foxx. The videos became viral hit on social media and now everyone wants to get their hands on it.

Gyroscope | Source

How a Hoverboard Works?

There are several sensors and motors that make the hoverboard move but the brain of the operation is the logic board which calculates how it should move based on the information gathered from the sensors. The pedals or platform where you stand contains sensor pads that can detect minute shifts of your body weight. In order to move to the left, your right foot needs to push down on the sensor pads. And in order to move to the right, your left foot needs to push down on the sensor pad under your left foot. That gathers the data pertaining to the direction you want to go. The hoverboard contains two gyroscopes that can tell the orientation and the tilt/speed sensors, also known as the accelerometer, can measure the acceleration of the movement. All these information gathered from the sensors help the logic board figure out exactly how the hoverboard is moving and how to counter the movement in order to maintain your balance. It's pretty simple application of science but seem like magical to many people that's why hoverboards are a huge hit!

Self-Balancing Scooter
Self-Balancing Scooter | Source
Hoverboard on Fire
Hoverboard on Fire | Source

Power Source and Fire Hazard

In 2015, the electric scooter hoverboards became one of the most popular gifts during holiday season but the news of one instance where it caught fire has put the safety of these hoverboards in question. While the root cause of the hoverboard that caught fire was not officially determined yet, the usual suspect is the power source. Hoverboards use a 20-cell lithium-ion rechargeable battery packs which are the same batteries you can find in laptop computers, phones, and other electronic gadgets. Lithium-ion battery packs are popular because they are environmentally friendly, can store more energies, and more compact. However, they heat up and expand during charging and when damaged can potentially explode. And damage to this battery when you are riding the hoverboard is not something that is not likely to happen. In addition to this, the battery pack of a hoverboard is the most expensive component and manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to reduce the cost. Hoverboards produced in Chinese factories could be using a generic brand rather than the original Samsung or LG batteries. Some U.S. airlines actually banned hoverboards on their flights and even U.S. Postal Service stopped shipping hoverboards by air for safety purpose. So if you are planning to get a hoverboard, make sure that the batteries are original or branded and never leave it charging unattended. It would also help to have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.

Hoverboards Buying Guide

Safety first! Before purchasing a hoverboard, find out the factors to consider in buying one. They are supposed to be fun, not dangerous so here are some tips in buying a hoverboard.

1. Battery Pack. Of course the top of the list is the battery pack. Make sure you inquire about the quality of the batteries used on the hoverboard before making a purchase. It is usually stated in the specification or description. If you can't find this information, always ask.

2. Read Seller Feedback and Reviews. Often times, you'll see reviews from other people who already bought from the seller. Spend some time reading through the reviews for you to get an idea of the experience that other people had. If there is not much reviews, you better think twice as the seller might not be a reputable one.

3. Pick the Latest Version Released. As usual, the first models released are typically the faulty ones or contains a lot of bugs. Don't be the guinea pig. Make sure you are purchasing hoverboards that are manufactured recently (2015 or later version) because of their improved quality and performance. A hoverboard that comes with a remote control or smartphone apps are just examples of latest revisions.

4. UL 2272 Certified. UL is a global independent safety organization that sets standard and certifies products to this standards. The UL 2272 certification would only mean that the product meets the standard of the safety of the electrical drive train system including battery system and other circuitry and electrical components of the hoverboard.

5. Size of the Wheel. Hoverboards come in different wheel sizes but basically, the bigger the wheels, the more suitable it is for off road or rough surfaces.

Hoverboard | Source

Hoverboard TIPS

If you just got a brand new electric scooter or hoverboard, here are some tips on how to use and maintain it.

1. Read the Manual. Most of the satety instructions are there in the user's manual including how to replace parts, how to clean, and how to store your hoverboards. Please make sure to read it before you even get on the hoverboard.

2. Find Your Way. With the popularity of hoverboards as well as the safety concerns, some areas actually banned them from the streets or sidewalks. So before you ride outside, ask around or call your local police department to find out if they are legal to ride on streets, sidewalks, or bike lanes. Don't risk facing fines for violating law and city ordinance.

3. Avoid Damage To Your Hoverboard. Your hoverboard is not a skateboard that you can crash and bump into concrete walls or stairs. They are actually mobility device or electric scooter. Hoverboards are more of a vehicle rather than a toy that you can abuse. Keep in mind that it contains lithium-ion battery pack that does not welcome damage lightly.

4. Don't Overcharge or Leave Unattended. Overcharging a device powered by lithium-ion battery pack is never a good idea, yet we do this all the time with our phones, tablets, and other gadgets. Hoverboards contain a bigger battery pack so you know what that means. Even though they are designed to stop charging as soon as the batteries are full, it's still a good habit to unplug it from the outlet for safety reason because you'll never know what could go wrong. Always charge your hoverboard in a clear area far from objects that can easily catch fire like curtains or papers. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby for extra security. Lastly, don't store your hoverboards in a room at high temperature for the battery's sake and for your own.

5. Always Inspect and Keep it Clean. The hoverboards have a lot of moving parts and cables so it's advisable to constantly check them. Make sure the tires are good, the screws are tight, and the cables are not loose. When cleaning your hoverboard, wiping it with dry fabric is enough or even wet wipes. Never give it a shower or water rinse as it may cause damage to the electronic components. For the tires you can use a small brush or old toothbrush to remove the dirt or mud.

There you go folks! Take care of your hoverboard and it will take care of you in return. Stay safe and enjoy!


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