Repeated cases of EVs catching fire may dampen India’s drive towards e-mobility, feels govt
NEW DELHI :
India is preparing comprehensive guidelines for the electric vehicle (EV) industry, said two government officials aware of the matter, as rising incidents of fires linked to such eco-friendly vehicles raises concerns among potential buyers.
The new rules will cover operations and maintenance of EVs and related infrastructure, a standard operating protocol (SOP) to follow in cases of such vehicles catching fire, and specific rules on recalling electric two-wheelers, the officials said requesting anonymity.
There have been several incidents of electric scooters catching fire in the recent past, which have also intensified concerns within the government that it may impact India’s nascent EV ecosystem, and its ambitious push for electric mobility. The government plans to make India a manufacturing hub for EVs and batteries as part of its energy transition.
Government think tank NITI Aayog is working on these guidelines in close coordination with the road ministry, said one of the two officials cited above, both of whom requested anonymity. The heavy industries ministry has also submitted its inputs to NITI Aayog, the official said.
“The SOP would give a detailed action plan to deal with a situation of fire in case of EVs. Effort is also being made to make the guidelines comprehensive to deal with even unforeseen issues coming in the sector based on both local and global experience," the official said.
The SOP will also look at streamlining the process for scrapping EVs and educating owners of such vehicles about the do’s and dont’s.
On 7 April, Mint reported that the government may ask some electric scooter makers to recall their products after a spate of fire incidents. The road ministry has started a probe after several scooters made by Ola Electric, Okinawa Autotech, and Pure EV caught fire in the past fortnight.
The second official said the guidelines may also include a separate recall policy for EV two-wheelers, which would be framed considering their technical specifications.
Under a mandatory recall policy for all vehicles that took effect last April, an automobile can be recalled based on two factors : The number of complaints received for a defect in the vehicle and the annual sales of that particular vehicle model.
While this policy also covers electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers, the recent incidents have prompted the government to consider lowering the threshold for vehicle recall in case of electric two-wheelers, partly to prevent any negative sentiment about EVs due to defective manufacturing or operations.
Queries sent to spokespersons for NITI Aayog, and ministries of road transport and highways, and heavy industries remained unanswered till press time.
Though automakers typically recall vehicles to replace or repair faulty components or parts that may endanger their safe operation, the officials quoted earlier said they could also seek a recall if investigations reveal that road accidents involving EVs were because of faulty or inferior quality parts including the lithium-ion battery that forms the heart of all EVs.
Experts said out of the two most commercially viable battery chemistries—Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) and Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP)—the former, NMC gets heated much faster, and it is the chemistry largely used in batteries of Indian e-scooter makers.
After the incidents of fire, one of which claimed the lives of two people in Tamil Nadu, calls have grown for official regulations for this growing sector as several companies ranging from small firms and startups, and large automakers are entering this space.
Amit Kumar, partner and leader, power and utilities mining at PwC India said the government should come up with guidelines in terms of safety, temperature, charging and cooling. He also said the Bureau of Indian Standards should frame standards for batteries in the country.
Responding to a question in the Parliament last week, Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport and highways, said the government had ordered a forensic investigation into each individual event from experts of the Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety under the Defence Research and Development Organisation, and the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.