Home / Auto News / Govt turns heat on Ola Electric & other EV makers for scooter fires

NEW DELHI : The government has asked electric-scooter makers, including Ola Electric, Pure EV and Okinawa, to explain why they should not be penalized for a spate of scooter fires—some of them deadly—caused by faulty batteries.

The companies have been given 30 days till July-end to respond to the notices, an official familiar with the development said. The government may, however, extend the time as they have been asked to give a detailed response.

The government formed two committees after several battery-powered scooters went up in flames this year. The panel investigating the fire incidents found the electric two-wheeler makers used faulty batteries. The second panel was set up to recommend battery-testing criteria.

“The committee of experts has given a report after tests were conducted on samples collected from those companies and after examining the vehicles that caught fire. That report was shared with the companies. It was found that some of the defects in the systems have caused the fires. The companies have been advised to set them in order quickly. We have also asked them to explain why action should not be taken against them for these failures," the official said.

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

On 23 June, Mint reported that the committee on battery testing and certification is expected to suggest stricter testing and certification norms. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has already issued performance standards for lithium-ion traction batteries.

The series of fires triggered concerns about the safety of electric vehicles and whether Indian e-scooter makers have rushed their products, with parts imported from China, to the market without adequate quality and safety checks to test whether the batteries could weather the harsh local conditions, including soaring summer temperatures and potholed roads.

Recently, in the first incident in India involving a four-wheeler, a Tata Nexon EV also caught fire near Mumbai. The transport ministry has ordered a separate investigation into the incident by the team which looked into the two-wheeler fire incidents, the official said.

In response, Tata Motors initiated an investigation into the matter. “A detailed investigation is currently being conducted to ascertain the facts of the recent isolated thermal incident that is doing the rounds on social media. We will share a detailed response after our complete investigation. We remain committed to the safety of our vehicles and their users," the company said on 24 June.

Queries sent to the transport ministry and Ola Electric remained unanswered till press time, while Pure EV and Okinawa could not be reached.

Mint reported on 7 April that the government is preparing comprehensive guidelines for the EV industry to address rising incidents of battery fires that have worried potential buyers.

Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari announced on 21 April that the government would issue quality guidelines for electric vehicles.

“If any company is found negligent in their 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, electric two-wheeler makers should target an impedance of around 12 for batteries. Cheaper Chinese batteries come with an impedance level of 18-40, they said, adding that the lower the impedance, the lesser the chances of overheating.

The experts also said that out of the two commercially viable battery chemistries, Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) and Lithium Iron Phosphate, NMC gets heated much faster, and the chemistry is primarily used in batteries by Indian e-scooter makers.

Sambit Chakraborty, advisory board member, Indigrid Technology, said that along with the need for low impedance level, norms should ensure that metal or plastic casing on the packs should have a safety rating and the battery management system should be an intelligent design to analyse heat dissipated at a cell level to shut off that one specific overheating cell if necessary.

He added that the fireproof casing of the battery should also be looked at.

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