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The government is likely to announce next month crucial battery safety and performance standards that are expected to play a key role in promoting electric vehicle adoption and reducing pollution, two senior government officials familiar with the development said.

The standards, prepared by the Bureau of India Standards, would not include rules on dimensions and size of batteries, given the concerns raised by the industry that mandating dimensions would stem innovation.

“The standards have been finalized and are expected to be released next month. Certain minimum standards, called horizontal standards, have been made to ensure safety. In order to avoid substandard batteries, a certain bare minimum duration has also been fixed," one of the two officials said, requesting anonymity.

On the decision on battery dimensions, the official said: “The EV segment is fairly new in India. So, fixing the dimensions of the battery would essentially curb innovation. So it has been decided that standards would be based only on safety and performance, not dimension."

On 11 January, Mint reported that the government is reconsidering its plan to mandate EV battery dimensions and size standards under its upcoming battery-swapping policy amid concerns raised by industry executives.

On 3 January, the consumer affairs ministry and NITI Aayog met with companies to address their concerns over a uniform battery pack standard where the deadlock on the standard size continued.

Another official said that the industry is looking at developing newer chemistries apart from lithium-ion batteries, which are currently the most commonly available EV batteries.

The Centre is not mandating dimensions, given the prospects for further innovation, the official said, also requesting anonymity.

“There are certain issues with the industry, too. The EV market is huge, but research is not up to the mark. The batteries talked about currently are lithium batteries. And China is the largest maker of lithium-based batteries. They have invested heavily in it, and it is a limited resource. Policies can push the technology, but the technology itself has to be strong to cater to the massive demand in India," the second official said.

A production-linked incentive scheme is already in the works to develop newer battery chemistries in the country.

Queries sent to the ministry of consumer affairs spokesperson remained unanswered until press time.

Initially, the Centre planned to come up with standards for battery shape and size, along with those for safety and performance, in view of the battery-swapping policy, which is expected to be released soon.

NITI Aayog released the draft policy in April last year after finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a plan to come up with the policy in her budget speech for FY23.

The draft policy had said: “Additional standards and specifications for batteries regarding battery pack dimensions, charging connectors, etc., will be notified over time with adequate notice to, and consultation with, industry stakeholders, to support a phased transition to interoperability between ecosystems.“

The new standards for safety and performance would come as another major effort towards bringing safety norms to prevent EV fires. Following several incidents of electric two-wheeler batteries catching fire, the road transport ministry introduced additional provisions to the safety standards for EV battery packs.

The new AIS-038 (for four-wheelers) and AIS-156 (two- and three-wheelers) standards were introduced by the ministry under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules.

Subsequently, the ministry of heavy industries brought out a separate set of rules on human safety, which have to be implemented by 1 April.

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