Exway Doesn't Care About USB-C Conformity
Today was the first time I charged my Exway remote after getting the electric skateboard in May or so. When I went to plug it in with my USB-C charger, I noticed that the remote didn’t light up.
My heart sank a little when I noticed that the other end of the type-C cable was connected to the type-C port on my charger. If what I thought was true, it would be another device that the engineers didn’t put care into. Sure enough, when I plugged the remote in with a USB-A to type-C cable, it immediately lit up and started to charge.
So in this blog post, I’ll go over my support ticket to Exway, Exway’s response, and why you should care and not accept devices that violate the USB-C specifications.
My support ticket with Exway
My initial report:
I noticed that the remote for the Exway Flex has a missing resistor on the USB-C port. This makes it so that it will not charge with a type-C to C cable. Is this problem fixed with newer revisions of the remote?
Thanks for reaching
The new remote is using the USB-C charge port
Exway after-sale support team
Oh no. They’re not even reading my email…
I think you misunderstood my question. My remote does indeed have a USB-C port. However, it is missing the proper resistor that tells the connected type-C cable that it draws power. As a result the remote does not charge with a type-C-to-C cable.
My question was, whether or not this is fixed in newer revisions of the remote.
And their response:
Thanks for getting back
Then we suggest you change the cable to USB- C port, C-C cable is still not able to be compatible
Exway after-sale support team
That was kind of the caring and thoughtful response I was expecting from a Chinese company, but I tried again anyway:
Thank you for the confirmation. Is a fix planned in future revisions? Because the device violates USB-C specifications by not charging with C-to-C cables.
Once again, they misinterpreted my message:
Thanks for getting back
The remote just doesn’t have the agreement, not able to change it, thanks for your support
So I asked about hardware:
Yes, I understand that a firmware update will not resolve this issue, as it is a hardware problem.
However, for future revisions of this remote, this problem should be fixed, as USB-C spec conformity is very important for all devices shipping with a type-C port. I hope that this is forwarded over to the engineers so that they can incorporate it in future remote revisions. In fact, devices that do not meet this spec can be determined as defective in some jurisdictions.
And their final response:
I have reported your request and I referred this to the tech team, but I got a negative answer, sorry about that
So, as of right now, it seems Exway’s stance on this issue is that it is a known issue, but not something they’re willing to address, and something they have no future plans to fix.
What is the problem again?
USB-C ports are different from other ports . Specifically, unlike USB-A ports that give out 5 volts of power by default, USB-C requires a negotiation process before it’ll start handing out power. You may have heard about this on branding material of USB-C chargers: USB-PD, or USB Power Delivery, is the spec that devices must adhere to.
But PD negotiation chips are expensive, when compared to the overall price of the device. The electric skateboard remote in question probably costs five dollars or so to make. (In reality, it’s probably much less than that, if you mass-manufacture it.) Having a chip that costs half a dollar takes up a ton of the budget in the BoM (bill-of-materials).
But obviously, the USB-IF board thought of that, and they provide guidance on how devices should behave (or in this case, identify themselves) if they just want 5V of power, no power delivery negotiation required.
This is done by pulling down the CC pins to ground with 5.1K resistors. (Because there are two CC pins – CC1 and CC2 - you need two of them.) Failure to do so means that with a type-C-to-C cable and charger won’t work with said device – the charger will check the CC lines over the type-C cable, find it “floating” (as in, not pulled down with a resistor), and not send over the required 5V. (And if your device shipped with one resistor, or shares a resistor for the two CC pins (ugh Raspberry Pi Foundation!!!), then it can lead to all sorts of wonky behavior, like the device refusing to charge if the cable is plugged in one way and charging normally when the port is flipped.)
In this case, Exway didn’t put in the required two resistors on the CC pins of the remote, and as a result it won’t charge with USB-C-to-C cables.
I know what you’re thinking. “Just charge it with a USB-A to C cable! What’s the big deal here?”
Sure, you can charge the remote with this workaround. But let’s look at the bigger picture.
These resistors cost
pennies a fraction of a penny (thanks @rickcox on GitHub!) to include. And the instructions on how to do that is a simple Google search away. In fact, if you’re a competent electrical engineer designing circuits, you know your first job is to read the specifications before implementing them on your device.
Which means one of the following is true:
- Exway hired incompetent engineers that do a poor job, or
- The engineers warned that the port did not follow specifications, but Exway decided not to fix it to save money, or
- The engineering team at Exway made a geniune mistake and forgot to include the resistors, or didn’t know about this particular specification (I mean, the USB-C spec is really long, and probably very complicated thanks to the USB-IF committee).
But I don’t think the third one is likely. Nobody caught the problem while testing this product during development? Nobody used a type-C-to-C cable to charge the remote while using engineering samples? No, it is borderline impossible for Exway to not be aware of this problem, unless they don’t do any sort of testing, which again I find hard to believe. (And if they don’t test their products, that’s even more horrifying.)
And now we know they’re aware of it, but they don’t care. They don’t plan to fix the problem, even when they’re made aware of it.
If they’re willing to cut corners on stuff like this, do you really want to risk your life and ride a electric skateboard from them, equipped with their battery? Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they did everything possible in regards to safety, I don’t think they would be very receptive to a fix if the battery spontaneously combusted, especially given the response above.
So what can I do?
If you have an Exway board that is affected by this problem, then contact Exway and let them know that this is unacceptable. The product is defective by design, and they need to fix it.
Also, consider discontinuing the use of their skateboards.
If you were considering purchasing an electric skateboard, consider alternative brands.
But most importantly, it’s important to spread the word and let manufacturers know that not conforming to USB-C spec in 2023 is absolutely unacceptable. Countless forum posts have been made about this exact issue, and there’s even a subreddit called r/USBCHardware that has constant threads on defective products like these. Help people that might not understand why their device won’t charge with certain cables by not letting these companies get away with bad design.