“Hoverboards” are a lie, and now they’re catching on fire

Amazon has advised customers to throw their boards away. 

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“But they don't actually... hover?”

This is the most common response to the hoverboard, this year's gimmicky transport option of choice. The two-wheeled motorised scooters do not, in fact leave the ground at all: they just roll along, much like all the other modes of transport we've been using for the past 5,000-odd years. What an anticlimax. 

The name seems to have arisen from the fact that the other options - "mini segway" or "self-balancing scooter" - don't sound very cool, so users and manufacturers co-opted the name of Marty's cool floating skateboard from Back to the Future. 

Here's a non-hoverboard up close:

Image: Soar Boards.

Turns out that the boards have problems beyond their misnomer. First, they got banned from pavements in London and New York (not to mention the time Wiz Khalifa claimed he was put in handcuffs after he refused to dismount his two-wheeled scooter in Los Angeles). And now, in an email to customers, Amazon has suggested that they should chuck their hoverboards away. 

This is not because they're lame and kind of annoying to pedestrians, but because they're literally catching on fire, and in some cases, exploding. The email said that some of the hoverboards came with "non-compliant UK plugs", and that customers should "dispose of this product ... as soon as possible" and get a full refund. In a second email, the company said there were also problems with those using "rechargeable lithium ion batteries and plugs", and that these, too, should be disposed of.

It's likely this will ruin Christmas for some - but comes as a blessed relief to the rest of us pavement-strollers. 

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.