So there has been a ton of news covering the latest fires happening with self balancing scooters (or “hoverboards”, a name which we loathe because they neither hover or are a board) causing many airlines to ban these scooters from their planes. The big question for us is – will we be able to travel with the LEIF?
I was fortunate enough to test the ability to fly with the LEIF late last week. It was during my trip that Delta Airlines announced that they would no longer allow “hoverboards” on their planes. I knew that our batteries are under the 160 watt-hour limit and I have already flown with the LEIF many times, but this new law and recent upheaval around the scooters left me worried as I arrived at the airport less than 24 hours after this rule was announced.
But before I finish telling you about my flight, lets look at why these scooters are catching on fire.
Cheap battery chemistry
Flat LiPo batteries are cheap and extremely volatile. These are the same batteries in older laptops that caught fire as well. In fact, many people in the hobby industry would only charge these batteries in a tin can because they are much more likely to catch on fire. I’d be willing to bet that every battery that caught on fire was a LiPo cell.
Many modern electric vehicles, including the LEIF, use the less volatile lithium iron phosphate, or LiFe, battery chemistry. Iron adds stability to the chemistry while maintaining performance and adding cycle life.
There is no shortage of companies in China that can make a battery charger. However, these units aren’t smart chargers, and they have circuits with poor quality components. They can also over-charge battery cells, which can cause these cells to explode.
We are not outsourcing the battery charging unit to these cheaper suppliers. We are getting charging units built by our battery manufacturer that are smart chargers that won’t overcharge cells. These smart chargers are also made with an aluminum case to stay cool, not cheap plastic that gets too hot while charging.
Flying with the LEIF
When I loaded the LEIF onto the conveyer belt, I elected to remove the battery pack from the board and placed the LEIF battery into it’s own bin. When the battery went through the x-ray machine, the airline agents clearly read the battery specs and confirmed that our packs are under the airline limit. The battery pack went through without any questions or delays!
Therefore, I would suggest that when flying with the LEIF, be sure to take advantage of the removable battery feature and place the battery in its own bin. The security staff can then confirm the batteries are compliant, and keep you shredding on your trip.