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Kickstarters: Stop Putting Lithium-Ion Batteries In Novelty Luggage, Pretty Please

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For the love of all things holy! Someone had better explain to gadgety luggage innovators that building lithium-ion batteries into their luggage is not a good idea–no matter their best intentions to come to the rescue of the power-hungry connected passenger.

Wait. That someone is probably me.

The latest luggage for the gadgeteer to hit Kickstarter is a combination luggage, motorized scooter, and personal electronic device charger. Because.

Modobag is the world's first motorized, smart and connected carry-on. (PRNewsFoto/Modobag)
Modobag is the world’s first motorized, smart and connected carry-on. (PRNewsFoto/Modobag)

The MODOBAG *Rideable* Carry-on luggage by Kevin O’Donnel has hit Kickstarter with a goal to raise $160,000 in 30 days. It has already earned 31 backers, raising nearly $14,000 at the time of this report. O’Donnel just wants to solve common problems for travelers.

“Modobag combines the convenience of a standard suitcase with GPS tracking, Dual USB Charging Ports and the innovation of personal transportability to create the world’s only motorized, smart and connected carry-on that gets you to your destination three times faster than the average walking speed. It has 2000 cubic inches of interior packing space plus pockets for your electronics. Modo bag accommodates riders up to 200 lbs. while the Modobag Max is built for riders up to 260 lbs.”

It’s a brand new opportunity to look like a dork while getting to your flight on time.

Questions over whether the world needs a bag like this aside, it really is a very bad idea to put any lithium-ion batteries in luggage. Sure, we have no choice but to fly with lithium-ion powered devices because tech says so, but the risks of thermal runaway are real and need to be taken seriously.

Passengers are allowed to pack limited, spare, lithium-ion batteries in carry-on luggage, because cabin crew are qualified to put out onboard fires when they see them. But think about that sentence: Flight attendants are qualified to put out onboard fires–when they see them.

By the way, flight attendants are qualified to do a lot of things they never want to do: like help you get out of a plane after a crash, get you to jump down a scary escape slide whether you want to or not, use a defibrillator to get your heart beating again when it stops. Lots of things. They don’t really want to have to do these things. You don’t want them to have to do these things either.

That flight attendants are onboard to handle in-flight emergencies does not mean we should introduce new possibilities of in-flight emergencies for them to handle.

But the real risk of these gadget luggage inventions is that passengers don’t always bring their carry-ons onboard. Sometimes, they are asked to check that luggage. Lithium-Ion batteries pose far more serious risks in the cargo hold and are therefore banned in checked luggage.

So ask yourself: how will your nifty luggage invention handle those contingencies? 

I’m not picking on the Modobag. I’ve written about others under the same false impression that the risks of any lithium-ion batteries built into luggage are well-worth looking super flash, and raising big bucks on Kickstarter. These clever innovators, are perhaps not fully informed of the risks, or they feel secure that their method of inserting the battery into luggage is not problematic.

Manufacturers of our laptops and PEDs are likewise secure that thermal runaway fires are a marginal acceptable risk, in exchange for the billions to be made. This is not a problem:

IATA had to backtrack on a comparatively innocuous proposal for a standard luggage size that could fit most overhead bins, because passengers don’t want to be told to pack light. It’s time for consumers to be more concerned over packing all their stuff in bags that could light up instead.

A real connected traveller innovation would be the first personal electronic device that uses less risky battery alternatives. It’s high time to Kickstart that project. Who’s working on it?

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