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NEW DELHI : The Union government is expected to issue new standards for electric vehicle (EV) batteries within a month, two officials aware of the matter said.

The road transport ministry has already sent the draft of the standards to industry stakeholders for consultations, one of the two officials cited above said on the condition of anonymity. The draft is based on the recommendations of a committee set up by the ministry to examine EV batteries following multiple cases of such vehicles catching fires.

The draft standards say the testing agency must check for key parameters such as electrical energy consumption.
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The draft standards say the testing agency must check for key parameters such as electrical energy consumption. (Photo: Mint)

“We have published the new draft standards. In fact, we are describing what the minimum functionalities for battery manufacturing are," the official said.

In June, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) separately formulated performance standards for EV batteries, recommending ‘IS 17855:2022’ standard for lithium-ion battery packs. The bureau is expected to come up with some more standards soon. “BIS is doing a part of it; the ministry is doing a thorough revamp of the standards and testing criteria," the official said.

The draft standards say the testing agency must check for key parameters such as electrical energy consumption, net power and ‘maximum 30-minute power’ in electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers.

Following the EV fire incidents, the road ministry formed two committees—one to look at the testing criteria and standards and the other to probe the reasons for fires. The investigation found that many batteries had cells connected in an unsafe manner and that several of them did not have a venting mechanism to disperse heat in case of overheating.

The probe found that currently, battery cells are mostly connected parallelly, instead of the ‘series’ pattern, which increased the chances of fire. Further, there is no venting mechanism in case a battery gets overheated.

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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. The government has asked companies to stop selling vehicles with faulty batteries and discard them.

“Once the final standards are published, all EV makers will have to comply with the standards," the official added.

Queries sent to the spokesperson for the road ministry remained unanswered.

Answering a question in Lok Sabha, minister of state for heavy industries Krishan Pal Gurjar said that currently, testing of components for EVs is done as per standards as specified in ‘Rule 126’ of the Central Motor Vehicles Rule, 1989, to ensure compliance.

The series of fires triggered concerns about the safety of EVs and whether Indian electric two-wheeler makers had rushed their products to 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 also introduced incentives to boost both production and adoption of such eco-friendly vehicles.

In April, road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said the government would issue quality-centric guidelines for EVs.

On 19 August, Mint reported that the Centre might impose monetary penalties on electric scooter makers over suspected use of unsafe batteries that caused fire incidents. The development comes after the EV makers replied to notices sent by the road transport ministry about a month ago.

However, according to information provided by the government in Parliament, demand for EVs has not declined due to the incidents. The incidents largely occurred in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in March and April, the heavy industries minister told the Lok Sabha. Okinawa, Pure EV and Ola Electric recalled 3,215 units, 2,000 units and 1,441 units, respectively, after the incidents, the minister of state for heavy industries informed Lok Sabha.

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Rituraj Baruah

Rituraj Baruah is a senior correspondent at Mint, reporting on housing, urban affairs, small businesses and energy. He has reported on diverse sectors over the last six years including, commodities and stocks market, insolvency and real estate. He has previous stints at Cogencis Information Services, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) and Inc42.
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