Scary fire incidents shake up Electric vehicles industry

According to experts and industry executives, these incidents could bring down the growth rate and supply of EVs in the short term.

Published: 03rd April 2022 07:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd April 2022 10:16 PM   |  A+A-

Such incidents could bring down the growth rate and supply of EVs in the short term. (Photo | Special arrangement)

Express News Service

Electric scooters catching fire has become a big headache for India’s electric vehicle industry. At least four videos of e-scooters on flames have gone viral in the past few days, raising concerns about the safety of green two-wheelers. In one case, two persons were killed.

According to experts and industry executives, these incidents could bring down the growth rate and supply of EVs in the short term. Electric two-wheeler sales in India are expected to be 330-350K units in FY22. While the industry is sure of hitting one million units in FY23, it is certain that in the first six months of FY23, sales and production will be lower than the second half as most OEMs have decided to go for corrective measures. 

“It appears the onset of summer season has exposed the haste at which many new-age players started selling battery powered EVs. This is now giving a bad reputation to players who have done or are doing a thorough research before launching their EV,” a senior executive of a leading two-wheeler company told TNIE.

He added that importing components/batteries and assembling it here without adequate testing of domestic conditions will delay India’s EV revolution. “Once fear kicks in into consumers’ minds, no environmental or economic benefit will lure them to the showrooms,” he said.

Rohan Kanwar Gupta, vice-president & sector head - corporate ratings, ICRA, said that the recent spate of fire incidents are likely to play on the minds of consumers, as they are evaluating the various powertrain vehicles. Since it is a matter of priority for the EV OEMs, they are likely to strengthen processes and implement corrective steps where required and simultaneously make efforts to clarify the doubts in the minds of the consumers, he added.

Potential consumers are already having second thoughts. Sushil Kapoor, a Delhi-based businessman, who was all set to book an Ola S1 Pro has now decided to postpone his purchase as he wants see if these incidents come down and whether the EV maker makes some guarantee about additional safety measures. “The triggering point for me was the video of the Ola EV on flames in Pune. Until everything improves, I will continue to use my Honda Activa,” he said. Social media platform Twitter is full of similar posts.

According to industry experts, there is not one single reason for the cause of fire in EVs. Lithium-ion batteries, which are powering everything from EVs to smartphones can catch fire if they are improperly manufactured or damaged. It can also catch fire if the software that operates the battery is not designed correctly.

It is being speculated that most of the recent incidents happened because of thermal runaway phenomena, where a chain reaction occurs inside a lithium-ion battery when internal temperature and pressure of the battery due to overheating rises at a much faster pace than can be dissipated.


Mustafa Wajid, a member of the IET Future of Transport and Mobility panel and CEO of Meher Group, said, “Firstly, adequate electrical protection must be provided at the connection point while charging EV adequate cars, with the absence of the same leading to serious consequences. The chargers must also be compatible with the power supply and the EV batteries. Secondly, internal issues in battery packs could also be a cause. Robust practices must be followed by the EV manufacturer across design, engineering and manufacturing. Moreover, real-time diagnostics and cloud-based analytics should be in place for detection of abnormalities before a mishap.”

Talking about future course of action, Sohinder Gill, director general, Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles, said that vehicles and batteries which are on road should be checked by the OEMs if there are any signs of deformation. He added that new-age must take adequate time to test their vehicles in Indian conditions.

“The battery is supposed to last for 6-7 years. While players cannot test the battery/vehicle for this many years, there are simulation techniques that reduce the time to 2-3 years, which should be the bare minimum... If they continue to launch a half cooked product, these incidents will occur in future,” said Gill.

He also spoke about consumer awareness. “Consumers should avoid charging immediately after a long ride, especially during summers as battery temperature shoots up from say 60 degree Celcius to 100 degree Celcius in no time. This may risk the vehicle’s safety,” said Gill. Following the spate of incidents, the government has initiated a probe.

Role of lithium-ion batteries in causing fire
EVs are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which are considered to be safer, more efficient and lighter compared to their counterparts. However, these pose a fire risk if they are improperly manufactured


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