Not a sudden occurrence, electric scooter fires could be caused due to temperature variations, short circuits, overcharging, deep discharging, or poor Battery Management system(BMS)
- Fire incidents have created havoc for the Indian EV market raising safety concerns.
- Sub Standard Imported batteries and improper deployment of BMS have likely caused the electric scooter fires incidents.
- GOI ordered a probe to investigate the matter in detail with a dedicated team.
Electric scooter fires across different regions of India have created a sensation in the Indian EV market, raising questions about the safety of electric scooters. Until now there have been four incidents reported of electric scooters bursting into flames in the middle of the road involving India’s top electric scooter manufacturers like Ola, Okinawa, and Pure Electric. Not just from Indian manufacturers, videos of fire incidents in Tesla electric cars have surfaced on the internet a while ago.
The first incident of Electric scooter fires in India was reported from Pune, where an Ola S1 Pro caught massive fire while parked followed by the Okinawa electric two-wheeler fire incident in Vellore. Another electric scooter from Pure Electric has been reported bursting into flames in Chennai.
These series of electric scooters on fire has prompted the Transport Ministry to order a probe in order to investigate the matter.
These electric scooter fire incidents during the onset of Indian summer have created concerns about EVs, at a time when people have just started the shift to electric mobility in India.-Abhishek Gautam, CTO, ecogears
Several videos surfaced over the internet showing massive smokes and fire out of electric scooters which resulted in hundreds of wild guesses and hatred for EVs without actual facts.
Another one…Its spreading like a wild #Fire .— Sumant Banerji (@sumantbanerji) March 29, 2022
After #Ola & #okinawa #electric scooter from #PureEV catches fire in Chennai.
Thats the 4th incident in 4 days..
The heat is on.#ElectricVehicles #OLAFIRE #lithiumhttps://t.co/pFJFb7uKD7 pic.twitter.com/jJqWA48CNf
The reasons behind the Ola, Okinawa and Pure Electric scooters catching fire are yet unknown as the companies have just started to disassemble the burnt vehicles. However, after a series of discussions with experts and EV manufacturers, we tried to understand the causes of the fire and possible immediate solutions.
Not a sudden occurrence, experts suggest that the electric scooter fires in India could be caused due to temperature variations, short circuits, overcharging, deep discharging, or a poor Battery Management system(BMS)
Cause of Electric Scooter Fires
Trying to grab a bite of the Indian EV market in its nascent stage, many startups rushed to launch their initial variants of electric scooters equipped with imported batteries without real-life testing in different Indian weather conditions. Some of the major probable causes for the fire incidents are listed below:
Most Indian automakers currently import the Lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles from China and South Korea due to the lack of local manufacturers. These imported EV battery cells are not designed and tested for Indian weather conditions.
The extreme heat of harsh Indian summers could shoot up the battery temperature to 90-100 degrees, resulting in electric vehicle fires. In a rush to make a mark in the growing Indian EV market, EV startups delivered scooters to customers prior to rigorous testing in all weather conditions of India.
The imported battery comes with an imported Battery Management System, not tested for Indian weather, road conditions, and temperature. Poor BMS results in overcharging, overheating, dis-charging, cell unbalancing, and EV fire hazards.
What is BMS?
Battery Management Systems(BMS) are electronic circuits that monitor and regulate the charging and discharging of all the connected cells in Lithium-Ion batteries. BMS protects the batteries from deep discharge and overheating. Temperature sensors in the BMS provide information on the temperature at different location of the battery, analyzes the collected data, and optimizes the battery performance.
An imported BMS is unable to monitor battery parameters on Indian roads and weather conditions to eliminate safety risks. The algorithm in the imported BMS is unable to optimize the battery performance during extreme Indian summers, which results in overheating and EV fire.
A thermal Runway is a situation when a single exothermal malfunction results in a chain of reactions causing massive heat and fire. It occurs in a situation where the heat generated inside the battery exceeds the heat released to the surroundings.
EVs generally have numerous lithium-ion cells packed into a battery pack. So a single battery cell malfunction due to overheating can cause a spontaneous reaction in the entire battery pack, resulting in immediate fire.
Indian road conditions are different from the countries the batteries are imported from. Prior accidents or uneven roads may have damaged the battery pack, which could have resulted in electric scooter fires incidents after a few charging sessions.
EVs technology is quite new to the country compared to its ICE counterparts. People are not acquainted with the proper handling of these modern machines resulting in electrical abuses like overcharging and short circuits.
Due to a lack of test data, there is no mechanism to alert EV owners about the hazards to batteries and vehicles in certain conditions like exposure to extreme heat or humidity.
Due to the lack of liquid cooling technology, Electric scooters from new startups are more prone to these battery hazards.
Lower Test Runs
Real-world conditions are quite different and vary from region to region compared to simulated conditions in factories. Prior to launch and delivery, these electric scooters and batteries are not tested to work in the hot, humid, and cold weather of India. The lack of trail runs could not expose the electric vehicles to varying charging patterns in India which likely caused these Electric scooter fires incidents.
Solutions: EV Fires
While Government is leaving no stones unturned to make India the largest Electric vehicle market in the world, the same is expected from EV startups and automobile giants before launching a product into the market.
- Local manufacturing of Lithium-Ion batteries suitable for Indian EVs will diminish the occurrence of such Incidents. Rigorous test runs of the battery technology in Indian weather, road, and vehicle types should be the top priority for emerging EV startups in India.
- Indigenous development of BMS according to the Indian temperature, road, and weather conditions can significantly reduce the risk of such fire incidents. The BMS algorithms must be tested for Indian conditions to ensure adequate battery monitoring and optimization of battery performance.
- Instead of rushing to launch a new product by assembling imported components, manufacturers can invest time and effort into the R&D of EVs for Indian conditions.
- Advanced safety standards laid down by the government to test a vehicle prior to launch can reduce such risks in the near future.
Precautions for Electric Scooter Fires:
While EV startups and Automobile giants are curating vehicles for Indian conditions, it is the responsibility of EV owners to maintain certain precautionary measures while handling a new piece of technology.
Here are some of the safety protocols to follow if you are an EV owner:
- Proper wiring and installation of EV charging sockets and plugs to prevent short-circuiting.
- Do Not park your electric scooter in areas with prolonged exposure to sunlight to prevent battery heating.
- If parking underground, make sure the area is dry and with less humidity.
- First-time charging should always be assisted by a registered EV technician to know the basics of EV charging.
- For charging purposes, use only the company-provided cables.
- Read the user manual properly to understand the dynamics of an electric vehicle.
- Make use of the app provided by the manufacturer company to track the health of the vehicle and battery.
- In case of malfunction, get your vehicle repaired by the company’s technicians only.
Considering the nascent stage of EVs in India, it is the responsibility of OEMs to deliver fully tested vehicles to customers. However, the faults in any new technology are part of an evolutionary process, which gets detected and perfected eventually. EV owners have to accept the idea that any new technology for a better future has its flaws in the beginning.
Electric scooter fires are likely caused by temperature variations, short circuits, imported batteries, and poor deployment of the Battery Management System (BMS)
Not necessarily a fire hazard, electric scooters can cause a fire if exposed to extreme heat or short circuits.
Fires in electric scooters can be prevented by maintaining basic precautions like protection from extreme sunlight, using only company-provided cables, assisted first-time charging, and reading the user manual before use.
Fires in electric vehicles are caused due to exposure to extreme temperatures, mechanical damage, electrical abuse, and other improper handling of the new technology.
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