Dear Lifehacker, Hoverboards that don't actually hover are "exploding" in popularity this year. I gave in and ordered one for my son before all the news stories about them catching on fire. Since I already have the hoverboard, how can I tell if the battery and charger are safe? Thanks, Gizmo Dad
For those who haven't been keeping abreast of current trends, "hoverboards" are self-balancing motorised scooters equipped with motion sensors — you plonk your feet on the base and use basic body movements to glide around. Here's a YouTube clip of Kotaku's Mark Serrels zipping about his house like a pro:
In recent months, there have been numerous reports of so-called hoverboards bursting into flames. The culprit is usually a dodgy charging mechanism, much like the smartphone scare from a few years ago. Once again, the unscrupulous manufacturing practices of overseas companies are largely to blame.
So how can you tell if your model is safe? If you purchased your hoverboard from an Australian retailer, it will have already passed electrical safety standards. It is against the law to sell electrical goods in Australia that have not been thoroughly tested, so the product's charging component should be relatively safe. If you're unsure, look for a CE tick or equivalent compliance label on the box and request more information from the place of purchase.
In any event, you should probably refrain from leaving the hoverboard plugged in overnight just to be on the safe side. Otherwise it could be your smoldering home that prompts the next product safety recall.
Incidentally, we should probably point out that the vast majority of hoverboards are illegal to use in public. No really. As with electric skateboards, a hoverboard must not have a motor that exceeds 200 watts. This pretty much rules out every model on the market.
Your son can expect to cop a fine of more than $600 if he gets caught riding one on a public road. It is, however, perfectly legal to ride a hoverboard in the confines of your own home. Just be sure to pack up your breakables prior to Christmas morning!
You can read more on the pitfalls of hoverboard ownership over at Gizmodo.
Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.