Self-balancing electric hoverboards are one of the hottest Christmas gift items for 2015. Hundreds of thousands of these new, inexpensive transportation devices have been sold, but it turns out many were poorly manufactured and pose a fire and/or explosion risk.

Cheap Hoverboards Pose Dangerous Explosion Risk

Government and private safety lab tests of several brands of hoverboards have revealed safety issues with the plug, cables, charger, battery or the cutoff switch. UK authorities are reporting that many of the cheap hoverboards sent off for testing were determined to have non-compliant plugs lacking a fuse, which notably boosts the chances of the board overheating, exploding or catching fire.

More on exploding hoverboards

Many of the hoverboards (also known as Swagways) on sale this Christmas season are cheap knock offs made by Chinese companies that don’t have to pass any of the safety tests required for American and European electronic devices.

The problem is the large lithium-ion batteries and the chargers used in boards can be very dangerous without proper safety engineering. E-cigarettes had the same problem  a few years ago, a new electronic gadget becomes extremely popular, and then a wave of dangerous Chinese knockoffs floods the market.

The dangers of exploding hoverboards are very real. A home in Lafitte, LA burned down last week related to a defective hoverboard bought off Amazon that caught fire. In the UK, at least three house fires in October were connected to faulty hoverboards.

The scale of the defective hoverboard problem is staggering, possibly involving hundreds of thousands of units. The UK Trading Standards authority has already seized 15,000 defective boards, and noted that 88% of the boards it tested did not comply with electronics safety regulations, with nearly all the problems connected to defective fuses, plugs or chargers.

The best way to avoid a fire hazard from exploding hoverboards is to make sure that the device and the charger conform fully with international safety standards. The CE marking, required on every electronic device sold in the EU, means the product meets minimum safety standards. Avoiding purchases from eBay or buying a well-known brand with a warranty is also a good idea.