Over the past few months, there have been multiple instances of electric vehicles catching fire. From a Tata Nexon Electric SUV that went up in flames last week to Okinawa and Ola electric scooters catching fire, electric vehicle fires have now become a weekly phenomenon. Why, even electric vehicle dealerships have caught fire. A concerned Indian government ordered a probe into electric vehicle fires. Defence Research Department of India (DRDO) – a reputed organization run by the Government – was entrusted with this probe. The probe panel’s findings are out, and are pretty damning.
According to the expert committee investigating the electric vehicle fires,
- The battery management system (BMS) – primarily the software part of electric vehicles – was found to be seriously deficient across most electric vehicles that caught fire.
- A proper venting mechanism, which allows overheated cells to release heat, was absent across most vehicles that caught fire.
- Poor quality cells were used in the battery units of most electric vehicles that caught fire.
- Several shortcuts were taken by electric vehicles makers, jeopardizing vehicle and rider safety in the process.
An official from the expert committee made the following observations,
Companies have already been told that many of the EV two-wheeler manufacturers have taken shortcuts. Their cells have failed the tests. In several cases, the venting mechanism is not there. They are bursting and catching fire. They are mainly poor-quality cells. Secondly, the battery management system is not even basic. A particular battery, when it’s getting overheated, must be identified and cut off. This is, in fact, what even a minimum functional BMS will do. These vehicles didn’t even have that basic identification system for failed cells.
The government of India is said to have shared findings of the probe panel with electric vehicle makes subject to the probe. The government is also said to have served notices to erring electric vehicle makes, asking them to show cause as to why punitive action should not be taken against them. The final report of the probe panel is expected to arrive next week.
Over the past couple of years, the Indian government has made a significant push for faster adoption of electric vehicles in the country through attractive sops targeted at both manufacturers and buyers. These sops, apart from rising fuel prices, have prompted a slew of new electric vehicles makers, some of them with nearly no experience in building any kind of transportation solution. Rajiv Bajaj – an auto industry titan – even lamented about this recently.
The easy availability of Chinese electric vehicle kits have also led to the proliferation of electric vehicle makers across India. The sheer newness of the industry means that exacting standards and strict guidelines have yet to evolve.
The government is making a significant attempt to make electric vehicles safer, and more reliable by pushing through the AIS156 standard, which came into force from December 2021. AIS156 deals with hardware and mechanical compliance.
Also, an open-source Battery Management System (BMS) is being developed by the Government’s Niti Aayog. Okinawa Electric – one of the first electric two wheeler makers in India – has already announced that it would adopt the government’s BMS as and when it becomes operational.