Let’s get this out of the way upfront.
When we’re talking about “hoverboards”, we’re referring to the “self-balancing scooters” that made their mark in 2015 and 2016.
They don’t “hover” in the sense that they allow the rider to levitate above the ground, but they do allow users to propel themselves forwards using their body weight while keeping them stable atop their central platform.
How Do Hoverboards Work?
While the specifics of hoverboard designs might vary from brand to brand, most share a few components in common that allow them to function as intended. You’ll find that a hoverboard usually contains:
- A Motor: This supplies power to the hoverboard wheels, allowing it to move forward and backward.
- A Logic Board: This functions as the hoverboard brain. It processes information—your speed, tilt, etc.—and controls the power of the board so riders can adjust their speed.
- A Battery: This supplies power to the board. Most hoverboards use lithium batteries with high wattages, a source of contention (since some regulators fear they’ll all spontaneously explode, setting the world ablaze).
- A Gyroscope: This allows riders to tilt the board while maintaining balance and adjusting their direction.
- Sensors: Various sensors on the boards detect your changes in movement and allow you to control the board with their weight. Different inputs trigger different sensors and cause the board to react accordingly.
What Is a Hoverboard: What Is the Weight Limit for A Hoverboard? How Many Hoverboards Have Been Sold?
Weight limits for hoverboards vary, though most have an upper limit exceeding 200-pounds. Some of the higher-end devices have weight limits nearing 300-pounds. The weight limits are directly influenced by the hoverboard’s construction.
Larger boards with thicker tires can support more weight; smaller boards less so. For the greatest weight support, hoverboards with ten-inch wheels or greater are best. There are a few things to note, however. When going over the weight capacity, a hoverboard may still operate, but it will be slower, and the battery will drain faster. There’s also a possibility you’ll have more difficulty controlling the board correctly.
As for hoverboard sales, the number spiked in 2015. Thanks to a big holiday season boost, the total number of hoverboards sold in the U.S. during 2015 was 2,578,00. As for the 2016 numbers, that’s not so well known, but it seems safe to say that it’s much less than the impressive sales for 2015.
2016 saw the introduction of restrictions in different regions across the country. Coupled with the mass recall of almost 500,000 hoverboards, the freeze on imported hoverboards, and the numerous reports about fires and falls, the demand fell sharply throughout the year.
How Did Hoverboards Become So Popular?
In addition to clever marketing, hoverboards were thrust into the limelight by legions of celebrities and social media stars that had taken a liking to them.
They became a staple on video sharing platforms like Vine and YouTube. Companies gave boards to popular personalities so they could promote the devices directly to their followings.
Then there was the incident where rapper Wiz Khalifa was arrested for refusing to deboard his hoverboard at Los Angeles International Airport; this helped propel the device into the mainstream consciousness, and give the hoverboard a big boost in popularity heading into the 2015 holiday season.
This culminated with the big 2015 surge in sales we mentioned earlier, but the popularity swiftly declined after concerns about safety jumped to the forefront of our collective consciousness.
What About the Explosions? Are They Safe?
You’ll recall hearing stories (that persist to this day) about hoverboards catching fire due to their lithium batteries. This doesn’t mean that all hoverboards are dangerous, though. The models that were cheap copycats and fakes that had come from overseas.
Hoverboards produced on the up-and-up are UL Compliant and adhere to safety standards that make their battery packs no more dangerous than that of a smartphone.
On the flip side, however, this doesn’t mean that hoverboards are completely risk-free.
As with any form of transportation, there’s a chance you could fall from the board and injure yourself if you aren’t a skilled rider. Furthermore, there are risks from being unable to navigate steep inclines or, while riding in public, being struck by motor vehicle traffic.
If you ride smart and wear protective gear , though, you stand a good chance of mitigating these very avoidable risk factors.
Are Hoverboards Legal?
Yes and no. It’s legal to own a hoverboard and ride it on your private property in the United States, but going out in public is a bit trickier.
Some areas allow for hoverboard riding in public, but others have restrictions in place governing whether you may do so. Some restrictions allow you to ride, but only while following specific rules.
There are even cities, colleges, and organizations that have gone to the lengths of completely forbidding hoverboards from certain premises. It’s best to check what the rules are in your area before venturing out into the streets with a hoverboard.
Check out our article on where hoverboards are banned to see where you can ride safely and legally.
Will There Be a Hoverboard Rebound?
It is already here. In spite reports of accidents and fires, the new safety certifications for hoverboard batteries has restored some measure of good will.
Hoverboard manufacturers are gearing up for a second go at the market and made a good showing of some of their latest products at CES in Las Vegas during early 2017.