Self-balancing skateboards are taking the sidewalks of the U.S. by storm. But aside from the potential damage to your public image, they pose another, very real danger: burning your house to the ground.
Many of the hoverboards/Swagways currently on sale for cheap 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) Chinese knockoffs flood the market.
This isn’t just some bogeyman: last week, a family home in Lafitte burned down, a fire blamed on a defective hoverboard bought off Amazon. In the UK, the Fire Brigade blames three house fires in October on faulty hoverboards.
It’s not a problem limited to a few devices, either: the UK Trading Standards authority seized 15,000 defective hoverboards at ports today; it said 88% of the boards it examined overall turned out not to comply with basic electronics safety regulations, mostly relating to faulty fuses, plugs, or chargers.
If you want to protect yourself from exploding hoverboards, there are a few options: most imporantly, 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, or a Segway. All look less dumb, are probably cheaper, and come with a much lower risk of spontaneous explosion.