The incident happened on Friday at an Ather dealership in Chennai where a scooter caught fire at a dealership. The videos of the incident were all over the internet. It showed smoke coming out of the Ather dealership. Fortunately, no one was injured. Ather themselves were quite quick in releasing a statement that mentioned the cause of the fire.
The statement says that a customer brought his scooter to the service centre. The scooter was covered with a lot of dust and mud so a high-pressure wash was performed. Removing the dust and mud was important so that the service on the scooter could be performed easily.
Then the team at the service centre was removing the body panels when they discovered a crack in the top casing of the battery pack. The crack could have been developed because of an accident. The water seeped into the battery from the crack when the scooter was being washed.
The fire was then inevitable so the scooter was isolated from the other scooters. The battery pack has 224 cells and because the water was inside now, the battery pack could not be saved. Eventually, the cells were shorted because of the water, leading to a thermal runaway event. Because of this, there was a lot of smoke and fire. It is important to note that the battery pack of the Ather is IP67 rated which essentially means that no dust or water can get inside for at least 30 minutes. The manufacturer themselves tests the battery packs for this. However, because of the crack, the battery pack lost its IP67 rating and the water could get inside.
Ather says, “This incident is extremely rare in nature and the first time we have observed it in 150 million kilometres of riding. No other vehicles on the premises were damaged during the incident. As an additional safety measure we are increasing the number of pre-checks for accident cases to avoid similar situations in the future. To clarify, no other vehicles or even vehicles in testing have ever had a similar and even this issue – with an accident vehicle within the service centre- ought not to repeat with the newly planned pre service inspections. Product quality and safety remain our highest areas of focus.”
The manufacturer also found that a few screws surrounding the battery pack were replaced with non-standard parts of varying lengths. This could have also possibly exacerbated the stresses on the battery’s top panel. The manufacturer strongly suggests that EV users do not make any modifications, especially around the battery, wiring areas and battery mounts. Moreover, the users should only use on-spec components that are recommended by Ather.
This is the first time that an Ather’s electric scooter has caught fire. It is important to note that this was not a battery issue, overheating issue or an issue with the battery management issue. The battery pack was broken and when the battery is exposed to water, it will catch fire. Ather has already said that they will be issuing new pre-service guidelines which would minimise the risk even more.