Home / Companies / News /  Government may fine e-scooter makers for fires

NEW DELHI : The Union government may impose monetary penalties on electric scooter makers over suspected use of unsafe batteries that caused fire incidents, an official aware of the matter said.

The development comes after the electric vehicle (EV) makers replied to the notices sent by the Union ministry of road transport and highways about a month ago.

The notices asked companies why they should not be penalized for a spate of scooter fires—some of them deadly—caused by faulty batteries.

“They have replied (to the notices); we are taking action. The action cannot be very severe. We have to punish them, but it’s a nascent industry. We have to punish them for failure to comply; at the same time, we should not kill them," the official cited above said on the condition of anonymity.

Electric two-wheelers are the future, he said, adding the penalty will act as a deterrent for companies compromising on quality.

An investigation found that many batteries had cells connected in an unsafe manner and that many batteries did not have a venting mechanism to disperse heat in case of overheating.

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“Batteries should be connected in series. These people (EV makers) are connecting them parallelly also. Parallel connections will lead to serious problems. The battery management system is useless most of the time. Venting mechanism is absent in almost all, and connections are also parallel in most of the batteries," the official said, outlining issues found by a committee formed by the ministry to investigate the matter.

In the ‘series’ arrangement of connecting battery cells, overheating of one cell will not impact the whole battery package, while in ‘parallel’ connections, overheating of one battery cell can impact the entire battery pack and increase the chances of fire.

Amid multiple fire incidents, the government formed two committees; one to investigate fire incidents and the other to recommend battery testing criteria. Both committees have completed their tasks.

The government has asked companies to stop selling vehicles with faulty batteries and discard such batteries, the official said. As a result, some companies have had to defer vehicle launches as they would be allowed in the market only with safer battery sets, he added.

The series of fires triggered concerns about the safety of electric vehicles and whether Indian e-scooter makers had rushed their products into the market without adequate quality and safety checks in local conditions.

The incidents also worried the government, which has ambitious plans for the EV sector and has introduced incentives to boost the production and adoption of EVs.

Last month, Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari told the Parliament that his ministry had served notices to top executives of electric two-wheeler manufacturers whose scooters have caught fire, and further action would be taken after their replies are received.

In April, Gadkari announced that the government would issue quality-centric guidelines for EVs. “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 had said in a series of posts on Twitter.

In a written reply to a question by a lawmaker on what action the government has taken against the EV companies, the minister said that the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, contains provisions regarding non-compliance with standards (rule 127A), suspension order (rule 127B) and defective motor vehicles and recall notice (rule 127C).

“Section 182A of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, contains provisions regarding punishment for offences relating to construction, maintenance, sale and alteration of motor vehicles and components," he added.

Following the incidents and government scrutiny, some companies have recalled scooters. Data provided by the ministry of heavy industries in Parliament shows that Okinawa recalled 3,215 units, Pure EV 2,000 units and Ola Electric 1,441 units.

Queries sent to spokespersons of the ministry of road transport and highways, Ola Electric, and Pure EV remained unanswered till press time. Representatives of Okinawa, however, could not be reached.

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