Over the past few years there has been a huge increase in the number of hoverboards being purchased. In this article we take a look at the evolution of hoverboards, from early days to the present day, where they remain a popular gift for kids and adults alike.
The idea of hopping on a flying board called “hoverboards” is far from reality for now. The 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II has shown us how cool it would be to ride these skateboards that float. In the meantime, we may have to settle for hoverboards with wheels.
Also known as “self-balancing scooters”, hoverboards currently available in the market does not fly. Instead, it has 2 parallel motorised wheels and controlled by your 2 feet. But like the real hoverboard, it does require balance and coordination to run. Although this is not the type of hoverboard we expect to see because of the name, these personal transport devices are fun to use.
Birth of the hoverboard
In 2013, Shane Chen, owner of an American company Inventis, filed a patent for this personal transport device. He launched a fund-raising campaign via Kickstarter a few months after for the hoverboard brand Hovertrax. This patent was later bought out by Mark Cuban and the rest was history.
In the first year of its manufacture, a lot of defects were found in hoverboards. Its overheating Lithium Ion batteries has caused many incidents of fire and casualties. The danger posed by these hoverboards resulted in a major recall from its Chinese manufacturers.
Even with its bad publicity due to the dangers of exploding batteries, hoverboard manufacturers still enjoyed brisk sales. Until then the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hammered down all hoverboard manufacturers to pass the set of rules on safety requirements or face the consequence of seizure or recall for non-compliance. The safety guidelines submitted by a testing and certification company Underwriters Laboratories has become the basis for CPSC’s recall or confiscation of boards that did not pass its tests.
Evolution of Hoverboards
The CPSC’s crackdown on low-quality and unsafe hoverboards have filtered a lot of its manufacturing companies. Due to strict standards, importation of these boards coming from China reputable hoverboard manufacturers are now moving into new designs, far different from what hoverboards look like when it first came out.
With the development of the self balancing scooters, innovation began to take place. What used to be a toy for kids is now a device for recreation even for adults. This has now become a favourite personal transport device for people of different ages. As part of its evolution, these are some of the improvements in hoverboards which changed its image from simply a toy to a recreational device:
When the first hoverboard came out, early models came with either 6.5 inches or 7 inches. Nowadays, with the evolution of hoverboards, when you shop around for scooters you are given 3 options on tyre size:
- 6.5 inches / 7 inches – this is what the original hoverboards have when it was introduced. The sizes of these tyres are enough for kids to drive these scooters. It also makes the hoverboard light enough for the child to carry.
- 8 inches tyres – it’s a mid-sized tire which allows the hoverboard to carry a heavier load than the ones with smaller tyres. If the smaller tyres do not give you the hype, you can choose a hoverboard with tyres of this size.
- 10 inches tyres – These tyres can be great for recreation. Not suitable for kids, hoverboards with this size of tyres can be heavier. These hoverboards can be used on any terrain as the tyres are made of solid rubber.
- Batteries – overheating Lithium-Ion has caused an alarm to hoverboard users. Because of the risks of an explosion which put lives and properties in danger, researchers have found a way to fix the battery issue. A team of Stanford chemical engineers has come up with a breakthrough. They were able to develop a Lithium-Ion battery which shuts down automatically when it overheats and starts again by itself when it cools down. Although this is not yet commercially available, we can expect to see safer hoverboards in the near future. In the meantime, the government’s action taken on unsafe and low-quality hoverboard was already an important milestone in the evolution of these scooters.
- Control features – one of the reasons why hoverboards became a craze is its unique control system, apart from other personal transport devices. It does not have a handle but instead, a foot pad which was used to steer its direction. With the continuous development of hoverboards, some models now come with either a knee-high control bar or even a seat. New components are now being added on hoverboards to make it easier and more fun to ride.
- Motor – ever since the hoverboard was created, manufacturers have continuously developed its motors. The motor is one of the most important components of the hoverboard because of the fact that it is used for transport. New models in the market now offer faster, more powerful engines and can carry a heavier load compared to its predecessors. No wonder this became popular for adults as well.
What does the future hold for hoverboards?
The next generation of hoverboards is probably on its way. Lexus attempted to develop a real-life hoverboard which floats on air through magnetic levitation. Other designers are also finding ways to produce a real hoverboard. As the evolution of hoverboards continues, hoverboard designs are getting better through the years. Who knows what comes next after these improvements.
And maybe just one day, we might see ourselves stepping on the real hoverboards like what Marty McFly did and realise that we are definitely into the future.