Self-balancing skateboards/balance boards/hoverboards, whatever you want to call them, are continuing to grow in popularity. But aside from the potential damage to your public image, they pose another, very real danger: burning your house to the ground.
This isn’t just some bogeyman: the UK Fire Service blamed three house fires in October on faulty hoverboards. But it’s not a problem limited to a few devices: the UK Trading Standards authority seized 15,000 defective hoverboards at ports in a single day this week; it said 88 per cent of the boards it examined overall turned out not to comply with basic electronics safety regulations, mostly relating to faulty fuses, plugs, or chargers.
Many of the cheaper 'hoverboards' currently on sale have something in common: they’re made by knock-off Chinese companies that don’t pass any of the safety tests common to electronic devices. And that’s a problem, because big lithium-ion batteries (and the chargers for them) can potentially be very dangerous, without the right safety engineering. It’s the same issue e-cigarettes went through a few years ago: a new gadget is very popular, but there’s no market-leading product, so a wave of (dangerous) knockoffs flood the market.
If you want to protect yourself from exploding hoverboards, there are a few options: most importantly, make sure that the device and charger conform to international standards. The CE marking, required on every device sold in the European Union, is a good starting point. Buying from a well-known, non-eBay brand would also be a good idea.
More prudently, you could just buy your budding futurist child a regular skateboard, or a copy of Back to the Future II, to show them where they are going wrong.