Government puts pressure on Ola Electric and other EV makers over scooter fires

NEW DELHI : The government has asked e-scooter makers including Ola Electric, Pure EV and Okinawa to explain why they shouldn’t be penalized for a series of scooter fires, some of them fatal, caused by faulty batteries.

Companies had 30 days until the end of July to respond to the reviews, an official familiar with the development said. However, the government can extend the deadline because it has been asked to give a detailed response.

The government formed two committees after several battery-powered scooters caught fire this year. The panel investigating the fires found that manufacturers of electric two-wheelers were using faulty batteries. The second panel was set up to recommend battery testing criteria.

“The expert committee issued a report after tests were carried out on samples taken from these companies and after examining the vehicles that caught fire. This report was shared with the companies. It was found that some of the faults in the systems caused the fires. The companies were asked to put them in order quickly. We also asked them to explain why action should not be taken against them for these shortcomings,” the official said.

The second committee, made up of experts on battery testing and certification, will likely submit its report next week, the official said, adding that changes to testing procedures will be made once the report is received.

On June 23, Mint announced that the Battery Testing and Certification Committee is expected to come up with stricter testing and certification standards. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has already published performance standards for lithium-ion traction batteries.

The spate of fires has raised concerns about the safety of electric vehicles and whether Indian e-scooter makers have rushed their products, with parts imported from China, onto the market without quality and safety checks. safety devices to test whether the batteries could withstand harsh local conditions. , including soaring summer temperatures and rutted roads.

Recently, in India’s first incident involving a four-wheeled vehicle, a Tata Nexon EV also caught fire near Mumbai. The Department for Transportation ordered a separate investigation into the incident by the team that looked into the two-wheeler fires, the official said.

In response, Tata Motors launched an investigation into the matter. “A detailed investigation is currently underway to establish the facts of the recent isolated thermal incident which is making the rounds on social media. We will share a detailed response after our full investigation. We remain committed to the safety of our vehicles and their users,” the company said on June 24.

Inquiries sent to the Department of Transportation and Ola Electric went unanswered until press time, while Pure EV and Okinawa could not be reached.

Mint announced on April 7 that the government was preparing comprehensive guidelines for the electric vehicle industry to deal with the growing incidents of battery fires that have worried potential buyers.

Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari announced on April 21 that the government would issue quality guidelines for electric vehicles.

“If a company is found to be negligent in its processes, a heavy penalty will be imposed and a recall of all defective vehicles will also be ordered,” he said in a series of posts on Twitter.

According to industry experts, manufacturers of electric two-wheelers should aim for an impedance of around 12 for the batteries. Cheaper Chinese batteries have an impedance level of 18 to 40, they said, adding that the lower the impedance, the lower the chance of overheating.

Experts also said that out of the two commercially viable battery chemistries, nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and lithium iron phosphate, NMC is heated much faster, and the chemistry is mainly used in batteries by Indian battery manufacturers. electric scooters.

Sambit Chakraborty, member of the advisory board of Indigrid Technology, said that in addition to the need for a low level of impedance, the standards should ensure that the metal or plastic case of the packs should have a security rating. and that the battery management system should be a smart design to analyze the heat. dissipated at the cell level to shut down that specific overheating cell if necessary.

He added that the battery’s flame-retardant casing should also be looked at.

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