Less than 5 months ago Johnny Zhu founded Swagway, LLC, in Indiana with the express purpose of selling custom-made smart boards. He’d seen them in China and thought they might sell well in the U.S. So he convinced some investors to back him, worked with manufactures in China to spec out how he wanted his “hoverboard” to look and work and then opened up shop. The rest is, as they say, history. “Hoverboards” were the hottest gift this holiday season and they have been featured on everything from music videosto Ellen. They’ve also led to countless injuries and in some cases have blown up or caught on fire. They’re a sensation in all the best and worst possible ways.
All the attention seems to run counter to the soft-spoken Zhu’s personality, who may have made the mistake of not responding quickly enough to concerns about the safety of his and similar products. Now he’s talking and showing some pride in what he considers the care he took in developing the Swagway.
“We have developed entire product, including production, protocols and procedures,” said Zhu. He claims that his product was the first to have a UL-approved adapter. Other companies, he said didn’t even understand why they needed it.
Virtually all hoverboards look alike, but Swagway is the brand everyone knows. When the devices started catching fire and blowing up in November, Swagway was the name everyone threw around.
According to Johnny Zhu, CEO of Swagway The company is cooperating with the consumer Product Safety Commission on their investigations. “We’re submitting a lot more than you can imagine, like the schematics and, in some instances code for them to examine,” he said.
Regardless of what those investigations reveal, Swagway is taking steps to ensure there are no future issues with its hoverboards. Its new model, currently called the SwagTron, has a host of safety features all designed to address the possibility of a malfunction, overheating and even fire.
In addition to a new, edgier look that will, at least initially, deter the myriad knock-offs, the SwagTron is packed with safety features.
- The plastic shell and rubber foot pads are now fire-retardant.
- The internal wiring will now adhere to UL standards.
- The controller board will have a special coating preventing it from shorting out.
- The Lithium-Ion Battery will be housed in an aluminum chamber
“Lithium Ion battery is considered a dangerous product. It holds a lot of air. The aluminum chamber can contain any issue,” said Zhu.
There are other non-safety-related enhancements like a new app where you can track speed, battery life and location. SwagTron will have Bluetooth speakers and more lights to indicate power life and if there are any issues.
They’ve also retuned to the software. Zhu told me it should be more responsive. The rider also has a new fabric carrying strap.
Despite the new safety and capability enhancements, SwagTron will be slightly lighter than the original Swagway. When it ships in February, it will cost $100 more than the current model.