When it comes to exploring a new city or country, e-skateboarding can prove to be the most fun, immersive and least stressful mode of traveling through the streets.
Skateboarding through an unknown city immediately makes you feel more connected to the people, and the culture around you. There are no panes of glass from a car window, isolating you from a new world; no preset destinations following a fixed route of tourist traps. If you ride by a corner alley encompassing a bustling market, or spot a coffee shop or bistro flooded by locals, you can just step off the board. You have the option to explore, and skateboarding gives you the option to discover more.
E-skateboards are then a perfect essential for anyone looking to explore beyond the confines of a hotel. Unfortunately, since most new adventures require air travel, and the safety policy of airlines often varies in regard to both traditional and e-skateboards, there is little concrete advice as to how you should prepare to travel with an e-skateboard without being refused at the check-in desk. This article provides the best explanation as to the reason e-skateboards are difficult to travel with, and offers preventative measures you need to take before boarding your flight to give you the best chance of riding in a different country.
Why is it so difficult to travel with an e-skateboard?
Even traveling with a regular skateboard can prove difficult depending on where you depart from, or arrive to. Myself, growing up in England, skateboards are not allowed as carry-on luggage in any terminal across the country, so for ease when travelling, I remove the trucks, storing them in checked baggage and just buy a deck at a skate shop in whatever country I was in. Although this strict policy does not extend to all countries, e-skateboards are still not permitted as carry-on, or checked baggage under the policy of many airlines; and the availability and price of e-skateboard parts makes my deck solution non-viable.
In regard to not being allowed to take onboard e-skateboards as carry-on luggage, most e-skateboards exceed the dimensions permitted for carry-on. Airlines that do permit traditional skateboards as carry-on will likely not take a deck size larger than 8”, as larger deck sizes exceed the 32” in length that is generally the maximum size permitted for carry-on luggage.
The main issue however is not with the size of an e-skateboard, but with the fact that they are powered by lithium-ion batteries. After extensive research, there still wasn’t a definitive answer as to why specifically e-skateboards, or indeed any ‘electronic mobility device’ are not permitted by airlines. After making an inquiry with the International Air Transport Association [IATA] for a statement on this matter, David Brennan, Asst. Director Cargo Safety & Standards for IATA explained the issue wasn’t directly attributable to
‘I understand the issues of trying to travel with a motorised skateboard powered by a lithium-ion battery. In the wake of the concerns with fires from “hoverboards” a few years ago, many airlines have implemented a policy where they will not permit the carriage in passenger baggage of any lithium battery powered personal mobility devices, which includes e-skateboards.’
In scientific terms, The lithium-ion batteries that power both e-skateboards and ‘hoverboards’ are prone to thermal runaway - an unstoppable chain reaction. When a battery cell is exposed to temperatures higher than 60°C, its internal temperature can rise rapidly within milliseconds, and the energy stored within the battery can suddenly release. This energy heats the battery to around 400°C, wherein the battery becomes gaseous and a fire erupts that can’t be extinguished by conventional means. This issue becomes a far more serious safety threat when the source of the fire is in an unreachable baggage storage area at 39,000ft.
This issue with thermal runaway however has not prohibited the ability to travel with these batteries. IATA’s standardised requirements for flying with Lithium Ion Batteries are provided here, but Mr Brannan better clarifies the requirements in the following statement:
‘Lithium ion batteries up to 100wh may be carried by passengers without the specific approval of the airline. Lithium ion batteries over 100wh, and up to a maximum of 160wh can be carried subject to the approval of the airline. Lithium ion batteries in excess of 160wh are forbidden in passenger baggage.’
Despite IATA establishing international safety policy for commercial airlines, policy can change dependent on the airline you fly with. Therefore, the best preventative measure you can make is to research your airline’s policy on flying with lithium-ion batteries, and then contact them before your flight to notify them that you will have a battery when travelling, and state the specific wattage. The airline’s advisor will then provide you with the airline’s policy for how you should travel with the battery. Unless the airline specifies otherwise, do not pack the batteries in your checked baggage. Batteries are most prone to thermal runaway in the cargo hold because the area isn’t pressurised or temperature controlled, so packing them with your carry-on luggage in a bag prevents an unnecessary fire risk.
Our enSkate Woboard and Woboard S batteries are rated at 90wh and 126wh respectively. The Woboard S fits well within the parameters for air-travel, but following IATA’s policy, should you own a standard enSkate Woboard, you can simply take the battery with you as carry-on once you have disconnected it from the board without specifically notifying the airline.
The other measure is to disconnect the battery, and process the skateboard through oversized luggage. If the manufacturer of your e-skateboard sells a fitted case, then purchase the case to prevent damage during the fight; however, researching and purchasing a custom made flight case - typically reserved for instruments and specialist electronics - will ensure the best and most secure protection. Since many airlines outright refuse for passengers to travel with an ‘electronic mobility device’, you’ll want to disassociate the connection between your skateboard and the battery as much as possible. With the battery being processed separately as carry-on, your e-skateboard cannot technically be defined as electronically powered, and therefore meets the parameters set by most airlines. Prearrange your e-skateboard as a ‘skateboard’ to be processed as oversized luggage, and deal with the transportation of the battery as a separate matter. You want to be as clear as possible that you will be travelling with a skateboard beforehand, so that the staff at the check-in desk are already aware of your luggage, and the time and scrutiny taken when going through customs will be reduced.