They were all set to be the runaway toy of the year - literally. But it's all going wrong for the so-called hoverboard, as Amazon has pulled the sale of the devices from its pages.
The move comes following reports of the self-balancing vehicles, which are almost exclusively made in China, bursting into flames; at least two houses in both the US and the UK have experienced severe fires following hoverboards - which do not actually hover, accuracy fans - catching fire whilst charging.
The problems are believed to lie with lax standards being applied to quality control on the device's battery and charger, with an extensive report by Wired explaining how low-quality Lithium-ion batteries are particularly susceptible to damage. While the batteries are extremely powerful for their size - they're the same used in smartphones and many portable devices - they are more prone to catastrophic effects when they go wrong; witness the video below. They're also operating in machines that are more prone to be knocked about and kicked: not a good recipe for safety.
The devices, also known as Swegways, have picked up pace on the marketplace since they started appearing in music videos, with the Justin Bieber dance cover below propelling them into the mainstream in October. The likes of Missy Elliott have also featured them in their videos and, as usual, when they were banned from use on UK streets a few weeks ago, all that did was cause demand to go up due to the publicity they got. Classic British public.
However, with demand escalating, more and more factories have been rushing to provide products, and apparently skimping on quality control in the process. Jay Whitacre, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University told Wired, “There are a lot of factories in China that now make Li-ion batteries, and the reality is that the quality and consistency of these batteries is typically not as good as what is found in top tier producers such as LG or Samsung. These are known as ‘low cost li-ion batteries’ by most in the industry - they are not knockoffs or copies, but are instead just mass-manufactured cells.”
Now, after Trading Standards seized 15,000 hoverboards at ports and airports earlier this month, Amazon seems to have moved to prevent their multitude of sellers - even relatively respected brands such as Swagway - from shifting any more units.
It's a shame really, we were really looking forward to more comical moments like this brilliant recent Lucozade theft below, and the hapless Darth Vader below that.