E-scooter fires raise EV battery safety concerns for Indians

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After the fire in an Ola e-scooter in Pune last week, electric vehicle (EV) stakeholders on Monday raised concerns on the batteries being manufactured in the country, saying that if the safety aspect of the batteries goes unchecked, it may lead to more such unfortunate incidents.

A blue-coloured Ola S1 Pro e-scooter that was parked on the side of a road in Pune was spotted catching fire on Saturday. The e-scooter burst into flames that soon engulfed the entire vehicle.

The company said it was investigating the incident.

A day later, another e-bike went up tragically in flames due to an electrical short-circuit in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, which eventually led to two fatalities.

According to Dr Akshay Singhal, Co-founder and CEO of battery-tech and deep-tech startup Log9 Materials, it is very unfortunate to see the recent incidents of electric vehicles catching fire.

“These incidents sadly would become more common unless we develop ground up battery technologies suitable for Indian conditions and vehicle types, and the industry must take urgent note of this,” he said in a statement.

While such incidents are turning out to be a major cause of concern for EV stakeholders and customers, there doesn’t seem to be enough conversation around the same nor any concrete action.

“It is my humble request to all fellow companies in the EV space to not compromise safety and reliability for anything else,” said Singhal.

According to industry experts, the reason for the fire could be from the battery overheating owing to rising mercury in various parts of the country.

The Ola S1 Pro houses a 3.97 kWh lithium-ion, fixed battery pack. The e-scooter promises a range of 181 km on a single charge and a top speed of 115 km per hour.

According to Log9, unlike inferior Li-ion EV batteries, its ‘RAPIDX 6000’ battery is designed to withstand high temperature and climate conditions without causing any safety issues.

Other battery manufacturers are cautious and are assuring exhaustive tests and technology to deal with the overheating issue.

Bounce co-founder and CEO Vivekananda Hallakere said that his company tests batteries stringently and under “real-life climate conditions” before the launch.

“These batteries have been through stringent testing in real-life climatic conditions before the launch and have resulted in completion of over 30 lakh EV trips on our dock-less scooter sharing business,” Hallakere told IANS.

Bounce Infinity, India’s largest battery swapping network, last week roped in BattRE, an EV original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to use its swapping network.

Under this arrangement, customers of BattRE can rely on the wide network of battery swapping stations, which the latter would set up.

In the first phase of operations, Bounce would be deploying a minimum of 300 battery swapping stations in every top city.

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