Suburban Chicago company testing hoverboards for safety

They’ve made headlines as one of the most unsafe new products in years. Now, hoverboards are coming under the scrutiny of Underwriters Laboratories.

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - They’ve made headlines as one of the most unsafe new products in years. Now, hoverboards are coming under the scrutiny of Underwriters Laboratories.

The Northbrook-based safety company is putting hoverboards to the test, and so far the results have not been good.

No, that's not a firecracker. That’s a lithium ion battery taken out of a hoverboard, which is one of dozens of hoverboards tested by Underwriters Laboratories over the past several weeks.

"What we have here is actually a counterfeit hoverboard, actually purchased it outside of Chicago,” said UL Chief Safety Officer Barbara Guthrie.

Counterfeit because it has the UL approved logo on its box.

"And to date UL has not certified a single hoverboard. You would not see a UL mark on the box,” Guthrie said.

Now, UL is getting involved in a big way after dozens of reports nationwide of hoverboard batteries exploding and causing fires. Just last week, a hoverboard exploded in southwest suburban Orland Park as it was charging, sending pieces of molten plastic screaming through the family's living room.

The problem with a lot of the hoverboards is everybody wants one. There’s so much demand that a half million sold over the holiday season, and many are being made cheaply in countries with no manufacturing standards.

"Very poor manufacturing processes,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie showed FOX 32 metal shavings inside one unit that could cause electrical arcing, and wires that are crimped and crossed. They unwrapped a battery and found it was being held together with masking tape.

So, the testing has begun, including a simple drop test.

FOX 32: After those drops you've got a crack. You've got some exposed parts. Would this one pass?

"Not looking favorable,” Guthrie said.

One test pierces a lithium ion battery with a nail, and in another test a battery is subjected to heat.

"The scary thing is that was one single battery cell. In your hoverboard you have between 20 and 24 of those cells and they're not necessarily going to sequentially explode. They can explode catastrophically together,” Guthrie said.

UL advises parents to hold off buying hoverboards until the new, certified boards hit the market, which should carry special holographic UL stickers to foil counterfeiters.

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