Hoverboards keep catching fire and exploding in the UK

This used to be a hoverboard. And a room.
This used to be a hoverboard. And a room.
Image: London Fire Brigade
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Sometimes, being an early adopter can have its downsides. First-generation products can be buggy, or overly expensive. Sometimes, they can also explode.

At least, that’s what appears to be happening with hoverboards—the Segway clones without handlebars that are not actually hoverboards—in the UK. BuzzFeed News reported that a woman in a London suburb was sent to hospital Nov. 7 after her hoverboard caught fire while recharging.

The fire was only the most recent in a string of blazes caused by hoverboards, or other oddly-shaped Chinese-produced methods of electric transport. Wired reported that the London Fire Brigade fought two fires in October that were the result of iffy charging setups for the transport devices. According to a press release, 20 firefighters responded to a fire Oct. 21 in Southwark, south London, after an electric-unicycle-style hoverboard owner heard a loud bang and discovered the device on fire. Another owner of a recently exploded hoverboard in Kent said the explosion of their board (which burned down their house) sounded “like a bomb.”

Hoverboards are actually illegal to use on London’s streets, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped residents from snapping them up. Although some of the bigger brands, such as IO Hawk, sell their boards for upwards of $1,000, other versions are available on Alibaba for only a few hundred dollars.

“The cause of both fires is still under investigation whilst the devices are tested at our lab, but as both incidents involved personal transporters that were charging at the time of the fire, we’d urge people to especially keep an eye on their devices whilst they are on charge,” Charlie Pugsley, the Brigade’s head of investigations, said in the release.

According to the BBC, the issue with the hoverboards may stem from plugs that weren’t meant to be used in the UK. While there haven’t been any reports of hoverboards exploding in the US, if you’re thinking of giving one as a gift for the holidays, it’s probably a good idea to tell whoever you’re giving it to that they shouldn’t leave it unattended when charging. Or, better yet, just buy them a bike, or a skateboard, or a book, or a cardigan, or a nice bar of soap, or literally anything else.