Safety Commission investigates a dozen hoverboard fires

Consumer Reports compares three models

SAN ANTONIO – Hoverboards are in the news because some have reportedly burst into flames. The federal government is investigating the cause of the fires. Consumer Reports has just evaluated three, confirming they can be dangerous, but not just because of the recent reports of fire.

The three boards Consumer Reports bought are at different price points: the Swagway for $400, the $600 MonoRover R2, and the Chic Smart S1 for $830.

A Consumer Reports engineer took them apart to compare. Though some of the components are slightly different, the construction of the scooters is nearly identical.

"They are all powered with lithium ion batteries, the type of battery that has caused fires in other devices in the past," said Bernie Deitrick, Consumer Reports engineer. "But those types of instances are rare."

Although they are called hoverboards, you don't really hover. They are self-balancing scooters. The boards  Consumer Reports checked out ride the same way, using subtle shifts in weight to steer the board in the direction you want to go. It takes some getting used to, and it’s best to start with a spotter, but all riders caught on pretty quickly.

The subtle body movements are easy to control at slow speed, but when you get going faster and you hit a bump and it causes you to shift your balance, you can very easily lose control, as the Consumer Reports engineer learned firsthand during the speed tests. He wiped out on a seemingly smooth surface.

Consumer Reports recommends wearing a skateboard helmet, pads and guards while riding any electric scooter. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reports of 30 emergency-room visits related to the scooters, including at least 13 fractures.

Be aware that several airlines, airports and malls have banned them. And some cities won’t allow them in public areas.

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