Why electric scooters are on fire in India

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New Delhi: Demand for electric scooters is on the rise in India. Then they started to catch fire.

A string of recent battery fires on electric scooters, some of which have been deadly, have drawn buyers back and frightened them – and risks derailing the country’s ambitious climate agenda.

More than 90 per cent of vehicles in India are powered by gasoline or diesel. How the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases manages to convert to electric vehicles will be a factor in whether it can deliver on its promise of becoming carbon-neutral by 2070.

If security issues are not addressed, and people begin to lose faith in technology, it could “certainly be a big deal at the wheel of the overall plan for decarbonization,” said Kartik Ganesan, a fellow at the Delhi-based Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Can India chart a low carbon future? The world can depend on him.

In late April, an 80-year-old man died in a battery explosion while charging in the southern state of Telangana In his house; Four others were injured. A 40-year-old man was killed and several family members were injured in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh a day after a similar incident.

Video of catching an electric scooter The fire went viral on social media, sparking an official investigation and multiple withdrawals and casting a shadow over it. An industry that saw rapid growth.

Scooters, whether powered by fuel or electricity, are the most popular mode of transport in India from its traffic-closed cities to rural back roads. As fuel prices rise, e-vehicle manufacturers are making money.

Most purchases of major electric scooter models are booked a few months in advance. Hero MotoCorp, the country’s largest scooter and motorcycle manufacturer, is launching and investing in an e-scooter this year Billions of dollars in technology. Ola, a domestic ride-sharing company, announced in 2021 that it would produce 10 million electric two-wheelers a year.

But Ola was forced to recall more than 1,400 vehicles last month because of one of his scooters. A fire broke out while parking on a roadside in Pune city.

In a statement to the Washington Post, the company said the recalled scooters would go through “thorough diagnostics across all battery systems, thermal systems as well as safety systems”.

Two more companies – Pure EV and Okinawa – together More than 5,000 scooters were brought back after the fire. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

India’s problem is not unique. France has removed dozens of electric buses from the road following two fires last month. Last year, American auto giant General Motors recalled about 142,000 Chevrolet Bolt electric cars for battery concerns.

Fewer vehicles have been brought back to India, but consumers have noticed. According to a recent survey, 18 percent of the people They said they would not buy an electric scooter because of safety and performance concerns – an eightfold increase over six months ago.

Nikhil Chowdhury, owner of an electric scooter showroom in Haryana near Delhi, said, ‚ÄúCustomers are questioning the safety of walking. “It’s a new technology and people are worried.”

Experts say that a short-circuit in the cells that make up the car battery is usually responsible for the fire. A short-circuit can cause an uncontrolled spike in current, causing the battery cells to heat up to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many companies import low-cost batteries – mostly from China – without testing them, says Vivekananda Halekere, CEO and co-founder of Bounce, a recently launched electric scooter brand. In some cases, he said, the battery management system, which effectively acts as the battery’s brain, may not work.

Hallekere’s company allows customers to exchange a used battery for a charged one, eliminating the need for people to recharge at home.

Battery burning is “essentially a quality question,” said Ravneet Fokela, Ather Energy’s Chief Business Officer, an e-scooter brand available in more than 30 cities across India. “Batteries are either substandard or poorly assembled and are not topicalized for local conditions.”

Some have speculated that this year’s scorching heat may have caused the battery to explode, but experts say that’s unlikely. High temperatures can affect battery life and performance, they agree, but do not lead to fire.

A preliminary government investigation found “faulty battery cells and modules” as a possible cause of the fire, Reuters reported last week.

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Sohinder Gill, a spokesman for the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles and CEO of Hero Electric, said some companies seem to be cutting corners in research and development. “In a hurry to reach the market, they jump from the development stage to the sales. Not enough trials. “

India is still lagging behind the rest of the world in its electrification push, but is trying to make up for lost time by subsidizing new buyers. According to a recent report, less than 3 percent of all new cars sold between April 2021 and March 2022 were electric, but this is an increase of 200 percent over the previous year.

The government says it wants to include at least 30 percent of electric vehicle sales by 2030. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 4 percent, according to a 2020 report by the Energy, Environment and Water Council. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions will be reduced by more than 15 percent each.

The transport sector in India accounts for only one-tenth of total emissions, more than a quarter in the United States, where it is the largest contributor.

“As far as India is concerned, the two-wheeler is actually a low hanging fruit,” said Karthik Ganesan, one of the authors of the emissions report.

For electric scooters to be a part of India’s green future, he said, companies need to urgently address battery fires and restore public confidence.

“Ultimately, people are not going to wait for the industry to do its work together,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a problem that can’t be solved.”

Ananta Gupta contributed to this report.

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