Plan to douse EV fires: New industry standards, battery norms from Oct 1


After eight people died of suffocation following a fire that broke out in a building housing an electric vehicle (EV) dealership and a hotel near the passport office in Telangana’s Secunderabad late Monday night, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has ordered a probe.

Initial inquiries found that the fire started from a cellar where 40 electric bikes were parked. The development comes after a string of EV fires took place in various parts of the country over the last few months, prompting the government to formulate expert committees to investigate the fires and also come up with regulatory changes for safer EVs.

What are India’s battery safety norms?

In April, taking note of the various incidents of EVs bursting into flames, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had said that the Centre would soon come out with battery safety norms.

The MoRTH had constituted an expert committee which included officials from the Centre for Fire, Explosive & Environment Safety (CFEES), Indian Institute of Science, and IIT-Madras.

In September, the Ministry published amendments to Automotive Industry Standards AIS-156, Specific Requirements for Motor Vehicles of L Category with Electric Powertrain, and AIS-038 Rev. 2, Specific Requirements for Electric Powertrain of Motor Vehicles of M category and N category, i.e. motor vehicle with at least four wheels used for carrying goods which may also carry persons in addition to goods.

These norms, which will kick in from October, include additional safety requirements related to battery cells, battery management system (BMS), on-board charger, design of battery pack, and thermal propagation due to internal cell short circuit leading to fire, among others.

Additionally, the MoRTH issued a draft notification last month mandating conformity of production (CoP) for traction batteries used in electric powertrain vehicles. This proposed regulation, too, will be applicable with effect from October 1.

The Indian Express had earlier reported that the NITI Aayog is working with the industry and academia to develop an open source BMS to be used in two- and three-wheeler EVs. The system is being designed according to Indian standards and also as a measure to cut dependence on imports.

How many EVs have caught fire in the country?

In the last few months, over a dozen electric scooters have caught fire, including those manufactured by Ola Electric, Okinawa, Pure EV and Jitendra EV. In March, an Ola Electric scooter in Pune burst into flames while parked on the roadside of a busy commercial area. Later that month, an Okinawa scooter caught fire, claiming the lives of a man and his 13-year-old daughter.

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In April, over 20 electric scooters made by Jitendra EV were in flames while were being transported from the company’s factory in Nashik, in what was potentially the biggest such incident of EV fires yet. The same month, an electric scooter made by Pure EV caught fire in Telangana’s Nizamabad after its battery exploded, claiming the life of an 80-year-old man.

How have the companies reacted?

After Gadkari sounded caution to manufacturers to take “advance action” in recalling defective batches immediately, thousands of EVs were recalled. Ola Electric recalled more than 1,400 EVs, Pure EV recalled 2,000 of its own units and Okinawa over 3,000 units of one of its scooters.
In April, over 20 electric scooters made by Jitendra EV were in flames while were being transported from the company’s factory in Nashik, in what was potentially the biggest such incident of EV fires yet. The same month, an electric scooter made by Pure EV caught fire in Telangana’s Nizamabad after its battery exploded, claiming the life of an 80-year-old man.

How have the companies reacted?

After Gadkari sounded caution to manufacturers to take “advance action” in recalling defective batches immediately, thousands of EVs were recalled. Ola Electric recalled more than 1,400 EVs, Pure EV recalled 2,000 of its own units and Okinawa over 3,000 units of one of its scooters.





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