Electric Two-wheelers Catching Fire, Why? What’s The Solution?

Electric Two-wheelers Catching Fire, Why? What’s The Solution?

Featured Stories by Team Drivio | May 08, 2023

Scooters from PureEV, Ola & even Ather have been catching fire in India. 

  • The Ather 450X catching fire wasn’t entirely Ather’s fault though. 
  • In the case of the Ola S1 Pro, even its front suspension has broken multiple times. 
  • Even scooters from Jitendra EV caught fire. 

Any vehicle catching fire is nothing new, but unsurprisingly, an EV in flames attracts far more attention. Since EVs are practically always in the news, a fire will inevitably be covered. But what makes it exceptional is that these fires occur when EVs are in use, or even while charging, and that they are highly theatrical once they are started, with high flames and plumes of smoke that are very impossible to put out.

There have been several cases of electric vehicles catching fire during the previous several months. Electric vehicle fires have now become a weekly occurrence, starting with cars and then continuing with Okinawa and Ola electric scooters. Heck, even entire dealerships have caught fire! An investigation into fires was launched by the worried Indian government. This investigation was given to the reputable government-run Defence Research Department of India (DRDO). The investigation panel's conclusions are public and quite harsh.

According to reports, the Indian government informed the manufacturers of the investigated electric vehicles of the panel's conclusions. The government even gave letters to manufacturers of defective electric vehicles, requesting that they provide justification for why no punitive action should be taken against them. 

Through alluring incentives aimed at both manufacturers and consumers over the past couple of years, the Indian government has significantly pushed for a speedier adoption of electric vehicles in the nation. But that, unfortunately, has come with little to no growth in the country’s infrastructure. In fact, there’s no skill upscaling too, meaning mechanics all over the country still have little idea as to how to deal with electric tech. Even the titan of the auto business, Rajiv Bajaj, has bemoaned this.

So what that has resulted in, is people migrating to EVs, but with little knowledge about them. And a major part of these fires is that very reason. Now let’s have a look as to why these even catch fire. 

Why Do Electric Vehicles Catch Fire? 

There are essentially 5 things due to which this can happen: 

         1) A Short Circuit

 A spike in temperature and a subsequent fire can be brought on by a short circuit carried on by anything from a wiring error to even a puncture in the cells.

         2) Inappropriate Charging

Using the wrong cables or wall outlets, along with the inappropriate amount of electricity, can also start a fire.

         3) Cell’s Quality Isn’t Up To The Mark

Even a single infected cell has the potential to ignite a big fire, setting off the feared thermal runaway, which ignites other contaminated cells as a result of the temperature increase.

        4) Faulty Battery Management

Temperature regulation is the primary safety function of any battery management system (BMS). This necessitates carefully controlling both charge and discharge speed and cycles because any error can cause the battery to overheat to the point of combustion, and hotter outside conditions make the problem worse.

       5) Damage

Despite being relatively well shielded, a battery that is damaged or even punctured in an accident can cause cell ruptures, which then cause fire. Accidents can also result in the spilling of oil onto hot electrical components, which can set them on fire and cause a larger flame. Yes, EVs have oil for lubrication and cooling.

What Is Wrong?

The growth of electric car manufacturers across India is also a result of the simple accessibility of Chinese electric vehicle kits. Due to the industry's youth, strong standards and regulations have not yet developed.

But now with the AIS156 standards, which went into effect in December 2021, we could be seeing electric vehicles get a lot safer and more dependable.

Additionally, the government's Niti Aayog is creating an open-source Battery Management System (BMS). One of the earliest manufacturers of electric two-wheelers in India, Okinawa Electric, has already declared that it will use the BMS as soon as it is put into use by the government.

What Is The Solution?

So, should you avoid buying that EV you were considering at the time? The simple answer to that is a resounding no! Small EV fire incidents are not cause for concern, but awareness is required. A lithium ion battery has a very tiny volume but can store a lot of energy. Since 2008, the acceptance of these batteries has outpaced our understanding of the hazards associated with them. Although we must race to catch up, which we surely will.

And if you do have an EV, a few straightforward precautions can keep both you and your two-wheeler completely secure. Observe all manufacturer guidelines about charging and vehicle use. Avoid using fast chargers as much as you can because they burden the system and shorten battery life. Instead, always use the right connections and a decent, well-earthed socket.