Small, self-balance “hoverboards” are all the rage this Christmas season. You shouldn’t call them “mini Segways” because Segway, Inc. does not manufacture any of the many, many brands for sale.
We’re getting a lot of calls and enquiries a day asking about these little devices, mostly from parents looking to buy a toy for their child or teenager.
Here are our buying hints.
(1) If you can wait until January 2016 consider buying our new Ninebot Mini Pro instead. More a tool than a toy, the Mini Pro is slightly larger than a typical hoverboard and incorporates Segway’s LeanSteer technologies. Because you control steering with your knees as you lean into turns, riding is safer and you gain the ability to cross rougher and more varied terrain than any hoverboard could ever do. We have the first Mini Pro samples gliding around Auckland right now, and today you can reserve one of the very first units we’ll have for sale next year. The Mini Pro is available in Black or White. Pricing is yet to be finalised, due to new, increased difficulties to import Lithium battery packs, but is expected to be between $1,500 and $1,995 (including GST and delivery). Call us on 0800 2 SEGWAY to find out more.
(2) No, we can’t recommend one brand of hoverboard over another. No brand has been around long enough in New Zealand to establish a quality history, and these devices are being built to hit a low retail price point. If you’re determined to buy a hoverboard right away, we’ve been noticing a “race to the bottom” on price (and quite possibly on quality, too) amongst local online sellers, as they fight it out. We saw the same thing happen last season with one-wheeled electric unicycles, with some importers bringing in cheap brands known to be poorly constructed with badly designed electrical circuits prone to failure under heavy load (i.e. when you’re riding the fastest!). For these reasons buying from a major retailer that has stores in every New Zealand city selling hoverboards might be beneficial. Or, like we said, you can wait for the Mini Pro and have a device that has been built and finished to a very high standard, and actually works really well.
(3) Read How to Make Millions of Hoverboards (Almost) Overnight to learn how Chinese contract manufactures ramped up to make huge volumes of low-cost hoverboards so quickly (and why most of them are unlikely to still be manufacturing them this time next year). It is a fascinating insight into the flexible capabilities of Chinese industry.
(4) Be aware that the low-cost Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery packs and chargers used by some hoverboard and electric unicycle manufacturers are a fire risk, as discussed in Wired’s excellent Why Hoverboards Keep Exploding. Over the last couple of weeks there have been numerous media reports about hoverboards causing fires in homes overseas. There are no such risks with a full-sized, genuine Segway Personal Transporter because they use a different, much safer type of Lithium battery chemistry (known as ‘Saphion’ Lithium Iron Phosphate), not prone to what is called ‘thermal runaway.’
(5) Segway, Inc. are taking legal action against makers of hoverboards for patent infringement, and this may impact local sellers and their ability to make sales or offer service repairs in the future. In fact, the legal situation gets messier by the day, with hoverboard and electric unicycle manufactures now suing each other. Just last week traditional scooter maker Razor entered the fray as well. Locally, we take prompt action against any seller who misuses Segway’s intellectual property or trademarks.
A Guide to Hoverboards for Kiwis by media/newspaper publisher Stuff offers a New Zealand perspective in a well-written article, including comments from Tony Rabbit, our Wellington Segway dealer BodyElectric and inventor of the MAX Powerchair.
Sure, little hoverboards are fun to ride. But small wheels and lack of any kind of LeanSteer make them of limited use on anything other than a very smooth surface. Why not consider buying a genuine, full-sized Segway Personal Transporter, starting from $5,995 (refurbished i2 model, 90 day warranty) or brand new from $12,995 (latest i2 SE model, 2 year warranty) from Segway New Zealand. Call us on 0800 2 SEGWAY.