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EV Catching Fire – A Fiery Road to India’s Electrification

The outbreak of these back-to-back Indian EVs Catching Fire incidents led to public dissatisfaction due to which a separate committee was established to probe these incidents.

by Aishwarya Saxena

Indian EVs Catching FireHigh-intensity momentum of electric vehicle sales came to an abrupt halt a few months back when the electric vehicle or Indian electric vehicles(EVs) catching fire incidents popped out in various parts of the country.

Retracing the steps towards the world’s first recorded incident of an Indian Electric Vehicles (EVs) Catching Fire, the vehicle deck of the MS Pearl of Scandinavia caught fire on its way from Oslo to Copenhagen on 17 November 2010.

The cause of the Indian EVs Catching Fire was found to be a short circuit in the plug of an extension cord used to charge a rebuilt Nissan Qashqai, that was converted into a battery electric vehicle by Sakskøbing company, A Future EV.

This incident marked the first dent in the upcoming era of EVs raising safety concerns among the masses.

Registering astonishing growth in sales, EVs, specifically electric two-wheelers sales are now facing black clouds over their heads as more than 20 such incidents plagued the country’s concern on safety and had dented consumer confidence.

Indian EVs Catching Fire incidents took a toll of at least four lives lost and concurred injuries to several others.

Indian EVs Catching Fire – Story So Far……

EV fireCatching the attention of every Indian, the first Indian EVs Catching Fire incident broke out when a video of an Ola EV ablaze went viral on social media on March 26.

Incidentally, on the same day, a father and daughter duo lost their lives in an Okinawa electric scooter explosion in Vellore, Tamil Nadu which was later followed by an e-scooter manufactured by Pure EV Catching Fire on March 30.

Another Indian EVs Catching Fire incident shook the country on April 11 when a container truck carrying 20 EVs owned by Jitendra Electric Vehicles caught fire in Nashik.

This was followed by the Okinawa Autotech dealership catching fire in Tamil Nadu, due to a possible short circuit on April 18.

The outbreak of these back-to-back Indian EVs Catching Fire incidents led to public dissatisfaction due to which a separate committee was established to probe these incidents.

Whose Fault is This?

Electric VehicleUrged under the government’s speedy initiative, the new committee formed to oversee the causes of Indian Electric Vehicles (EVs) Catching Fire reported a range of issues that were all related to the battery standards.

The Fire Explosives and Environment Agency then submitted its findings on incidents of Indian Electric Vehicles (EVs) Catching Fire in May including these results.

  • EV two-wheeler companies might have used low-grade materials to cut costs.
  • Battery cells had problems with thermal and battery management systems.
  • The problems with the batteries were also specific to each company which highlighted negligence on the part of testing agencies like the Automotive Research Association of India.

Not completely satisfied with the findings and probes, the central government then entrusted the probe to the Defence Research Department of India (DRDO).

Their investigation of Indian EVs Catching Fire revealed more shocking results that are stated below.

  • Battery Management system (BMS) was found to be seriously deficient.
  • Absence of a proper venting mechanism led to overheated cells releasing heat.
  • Poor and sub-standard quality cells were used in the battery units.
  • Many compromises were done on the standards by these electric vehicle makers, jeopardizing vehicle and rider safety in the process.

Why are Indian EVs Catching Fire in India?

fireApart from utilizing poor standard materials in electric vehicles, we are stating some of the common reasons why batteries are susceptible and Indian Electric Vehicles (EVs) Catching Fire become an issue.

These include,

Rupture in Solid Electrolyte Interface- Uneven Roads 

Typically, a graphite anode is composed of a thin layer called the solid electrolyte interface to protect the graphite from reacting with the electrolyte. Irregularity if found in its formation, can lead to rupture of the layer in the event of an external force, and can cause a fire.

Oxygen Generating Compounds

E-scooter batteries use cathode chemistry called lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) which possesses a tendency to generate large amounts of oxygen at temperatures above 200˚Celsius. If a hot spot is formed within the battery, the oxygen will build a fire.

Combustion Caused by Dendrites During Charging

Hair like structures formed on anode during over charging are called dendrites. As lithium ions continue to pile on the graphite, it will grow long enough to break through the separator and might come in contact with cathode, causing a short circuit.

Faulty Battery Management System

Since battery management system (BMS) plays a significant role in alerting a user of its safety in case of overcharging. A faulty BMS is one of the biggest reasons behind the explosion.

Nipping the Issue in its Bud

According to industry experts, to ensure high safety standards in manufacturing, all battery components should be developed domestically in order to prevent Indian EVs Catching Fire.

The government has therefore incentivized domestic battery manufacturing through its FAME II scheme.

The government has also laid out battery performance standards under Bureau of Standards (BIS) detailed guidelines to make electric vehicles safer and has also pushed the AIS156 standard, effective in December 2021.

AIS156 primarily deals with hardware and mechanical compliance.

Apart from these initiatives, currently, an Indian-based open-source Battery Management System (BMS) is being developed by the Government’s Niti Aayog.

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