The US Postal Service will no longer ship hoverboards by plane, because of safety concerns

Coming by snail mail.
Coming by snail mail.
Image: AP Photo/Stephen Brashear
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The hoverboard craze keeps hitting roadbumps, just as the Christmas shopping season peaks.

The US Postal Service will cease shipping hoverboards by plane, “effective immediately,” the government mail carrier said Dec. 16.

Effective immediately and until further notice, USPS will ship hover boards using only Standard Post/Parcel Select. This product travels on ground transportation, due to the potential safety hazards of lithium batteries.

Also effective immediately, mailable motorized balance boards, or hover boards, will not be sent in international mail shipments, and are also prohibited in shipments to or from APO, FPO, and DPO destinations.

The decision is the latest reaction to a growing safety crisis in the hoverboard industry, created when unscrupulous importers and corner-cutting Chinese factories rushed to get millions of hoverboards to consumers in the US, UK, and other markets. Retailers, e-commerce sites, and transportation providers have started banning some models of the popular Christmas gift, or refusing to carry them, following continued reports of hoverboards exploding, and at times burning down houses.

The cause of these explosions is the lithium ion batteries that power the boards. These batteries are ubiquitous in modern electronics, but prone to catch fire when they are poorly made. Some hoverboard manufacturers in China are selling units with fake batteries, a sales manager from one of the biggest manufactures in Shenzhen told Quartz last week. “There are some factories right now that will say they use Samsung batteries but don’t,” he said. “They wrap a piece of paper around the battery that says ‘Samsung’ when it’s not Samsung.”

Retailers and shippers have taken strong action in the last week. Amazon once let nearly any importer or manufacturer list hoverboards for sale, but week scrubbed its listings, and told vendors they needed to prove their products had passed safety tests. Amazon even told consumers that if they bought a hoverboard the company’s website before the cleanup, they should throw it out.

The USPS’ decision means that anyone who wants guaranteed delivery of a hoverboard in time for Christmas will have to opt for a private carrier, like FedEx, which still has no restrictions on shipping them. According to the USPS website, items shipped through Standard Post are typically delivered within two to eight business days.