What is a Hoverboard and How Does It Work?
Hoverboards have been hitting the streets in high numbers as kids take them for a spin in various places. But what is a hoverboard exactly, and how does it work? Discover everything you need to know about this hot new set of wheel and where you can get your own.
By 2021, it's estimated that hoverboards will be a $1.8 billion dollar market.
Despite increasing regulation on where and how they can be used, the hoverboard trend doesn't show any sign of slowing down. But what is a hoverboard and how does it work?
Hoverboards don't quite hover in the way Back to the Future fans had hoped. Instead, sensors, pressure pads, and other components combine with the movement of the user to make getting around much easier.
Whether you're considering faster ways to get yourself to work or your kid has put a hoverboard at the top of their wish list, there's a lot to consider before buying one these self-propelling gadgets. We answer all of your questions in this article.
What Is a Hoverboard?
Also known as a self-balancing scooter, hoverboards are portable electric devices that move on two wheels. They entered the market around 2015 and have been gaining increasing popularity since.
Powered by lithium-ion batteries that are rechargeable, a rider is suspended on a platform between the two wheels. The platform is large enough for the rider's two feet and some space for balance between.
When a rider leans forward, backward, right or left, the wheels move in that direction. A series of sensors and pressure pads help catch the rider's weight and prevents them from falling forward (but there is some balance involved).
What Are Hoverboards Made Of?
Hoverboards use a variety of sensors and other components to move, balance and function.
- Gyroscope: The most important part of a hoverboard, this component adjusts the tilt of the platform in order to keep the rider balanced. It's such an important piece of how a hoverboard functions that the devices are sometimes called "gyro scooters".
- Microprocessor: These regulate the amount of power going to the wheels.
- Battery: A lithium-ion battery stores the hoverboard's electrical power and charge. 4 hours usually gives a full charge and provide up to 8 miles of riding
- Motor: Receives information from the logic board and powers the wheels when you tilt.
- Infrared sensors (IR sensors): Infrared rays measures an objects presence and distance and are used for a number of functions.
- Tilt and speed sensors: Controls the speed of the hoverboard by measuring how quickly the wheels are turning and communicating with the gyroscope and logic board.
- Logic board: Processes the data from various sensors and sends the information to the motors. This provides the required movements and directions as well as a balanced device.
- Pressure pads: This is where a rider's feet are placed. They let the logic board know that someone is riding as well as what direction they want to go.
- Two Wheels: These range in size according to the manufacturer. If you're thinking of taking your board off-road, look for a board with 8-inch wheels.
- Power switch: Turns the board on and off.
- Charging port: Most hoverboards come with a port for charging but these can be bought online separately, too.
How Do Hoverboards Work?
Moving Forward and Backward
All the above components work together to control the power and tilt of the hoverboards so the rider is balanced, upright and moving at a controlled speed. But how does it work, technically-speaking?
Each wheel has it's own gyroscope and tilt and speed sensor. When you climb aboard and tilt your balance forward or backward, the gyroscope tells the logic board which way to move. The logic board sends that data to the motor, which rotates the wheels and generates the power for you to move.
More tilt = more speed.
IR sensors and pressure pads placed below the foot platform send data to the logic board when you're not tilting. That tells the logic board not to run the motor so the board won't move.
When a rider moves the right leg ahead, the hoverboard will move the right wheel only. This turns off the motor to the left wheel and allows the board to turn left. For a right turn, the rider moves the left foot ahead.
If you want to move in circles, tilt any one leg forward.
Are Hoverboards Legal?
The legality of hoverboards is different all over the US and in other parts of the world. While not completely illegal in most places, there are some places that have regulations for their use.
In the USA
The only states with official laws around hoverboards are California and New York.
In New York City, hoverboards are completely banned from public spaces. Under New York State Traffic Law 114-d, public officials consider hoverboards an illegal personal assistance device.
While not illegal in California, the Assembly Bill No. 604 restricts age, speed and permitted areas for use. Children under 16 cannot use hoverboards in public spaces, a rider cannot exceed 15 mph, and hoverboards can only be used on streets with speed limits less than 35 mph. You'll also need a helmet if you're riding in California.
Around the World
The laws are different from place to place, but the following cities and countries have some degree of regulation on the use of hoverboards:
- Hong Kong
Are Hoverboards Safe?
When used correctly, hoverboards are relatively safe devices. Like anything that runs on wheels, there are a few precautions to keep in mind:
- Safety Equipment: Safety requirements aren't regulated anywhere but California (in the US), but it's a smart move to wear safety equipment, especially if you're a beginner. Helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards can help prevent injury when you're riding a hoverboard.
- Battery Quality: This is a big one. In the past, the batteries of some hoverboards exploded because they were poorly insulated. Since February 2016, hoverboard batteries can be certified by the international safety and consulting company UL. Rather than trying to figure out the safety standards of your battery on your own, just look for a board with genuine UL certification.
- Small Children: Because of their speed and potential for injury, hoverboards shouldn't be used by young children. Some boards have minimum recommended weights of 45-50lbs and minimum ages of 5 to 7 years old. But a fall from a device moving at 10 mph could seriously injure a child that small.
How Fast Can a Hoverboard Go?
Despite their small size, hoverboards can move pretty quickly. Most boards can reach speeds between 6 and 10 mph. Some high-performance boards can reach upwards of 12 mph.
With that said, because of safety concerns, many boards now come with a speed governor. The speed governor is a small device inside the hoverboard that monitors the rotation of the wheels and regulates speed. Hoverboards equipped with a speed governor usually max out at 7.5 mph.
Do Hoverboards Have Additional Features?
One of the biggest complaints of hoverboard riders is that their board scratches and scuffs easily. With an infinite amount of vinyl, silicone and rubber covers, you not only make your hoverboard more resistant to wear and tear, you can also change its look completely.
Some hoverboards can be decked out with LED lights, Bluetooth, built-in speakers, turn signal and even fog lights.
Or why not turn your hoverboard into a go-kart? With this strap-on frame, you can turn your hoverboard into a whole new, rideable device. It's compatible with most hoverboards, easy to use and takes 10 minutes to assemble.
Tips For Beginners
- Fully charge your battery before heading out. Some batteries come half or fully charged, but it's best to make sure you've got a full charge while you practice.
- Wear safety gear to avoid injury while you master your board. At the very least wear a helmet and consider wearing knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards in case you take a bad spill.
- Practice on a flat, hard surface in a wide-open space (like a parking lot or a garage). A smooth service gives you the most of your battery and is less likely to leave you unbalanced.
- Avoid hills, rough terrain or areas with lots of objects and people. Get the hang of moving around before attempting you hover down a busy sidewalk or bike lane.
- Determine which foot is your dominant one for an easier time steering. Hint: if you're left handed, your left foot is probably dominant, and vice-versa.
- Hoverboards don't have a front and back, it's all based on your tilt and balance. However, stepping onto the board forward and stepping off backward is the best way to keep your balance and prevent a fall.
- Step on the board with your dominant foot, followed by your other foot. Hold onto something or someone for balance as you get the hang of balancing your weight and tilt on the platform.
Are You Ready to Hover?
Now that you know exactly what hoverboards are, how they work as well as their safety, legality and other features, you've got all the information you need to start finding one that is right for you.
If you're not sure where to start, check out all of the hoverboards we offer. In different sizes, colors and price points, you're sure to find the one you love.