Hoverboards too hot for airlines & Amazon

The danger involved in shipping lithium batteries is an issue bigger than the aviation sector says the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which is calling for more action by governments.

IATA International Air Transport Association lithium batteries

The issue of lithium battery shipments onboard freighters and the belly holds of passenger aircraft is again at the forefront of safety concerns as Christmas approaches and the volume of electronic gadgets relying on lithium batteries surges.

The latest ‘problem child’ is this year’s toy of choice, the so-called ‘hoverboard’, a two-wheeled transportation device that relies on a larger-capacity lithium-ion battery around 42,000-mAh. Numerous reports of the devices catching fire and even exploding while charging have prompted regulators in UK, for instance, to seize nearly 17,000 of the boards which following testing were shown to be more than 88 per cent defective.

A number of airlines have banned the carriage of the boards – ironic considering the fact they can be purchased in airport duty free outlets around the world. And from late last week Amazon has been scrutinising hoverboard standards, sending out a notice to all hoverboard sellers to “provide documentation demonstrating that all hoverboards you list are compliant with applicable safety standards, including UN 38.3 (battery), UL 1642 (battery), and UL 60950-1 (charger).” Since then more than 97 per cent of the boards have been pulled from Amazon’s virtual shelves.


Speaking to cargo media in Geneva, Dave Brennan, assistant director cargo safety and standards for IATA, said he is aware of carriers being approached by a manufacturer of the hoverboards in China seeking to charter two B747 freighters to carry nothing other than the devices to the US and European markets.