Panel highlights big lapses in electric two-wheelers | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Panel highlights big lapses in electric two-wheelers, Centre in favour of hefty fines

By, New Delhi
Aug 13, 2022 05:48 AM IST

Based on the committee report, the transport ministry has approved imposing a hefty monetary penalty on three companies that sold “faulty” electric two-wheelers.

A committee formed by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) to look into the manufacturing of electric two-wheelers in India in the wake of a series of fire incidents has found serious lapses in the battery management system (BMS) and venting mechanism of cells, senior officials in the ministry said on Friday.

In electronic vehicles, the battery is the main component of the vehicle and acts as its fuel tank. (HT file)
In electronic vehicles, the battery is the main component of the vehicle and acts as its fuel tank. (HT file)

Based on the committee report, the transport ministry has approved imposing a hefty monetary penalty on three companies that sold “faulty” electric two-wheelers. Also, instead of coming up with a set of guidelines as planned in April, the transport ministry has decided to issue regulations to ensure safety standards in batteries that will be binding on all manufacturers and for testing agencies to check compliance of. The rules are likely to make it mandatory to include an “auto cutoff” feature in the BMS in case of overheating.

In EVs, the battery is the main component of the vehicle and acts as its fuel tank. These battery packs are charged using direct electricity and they store energy, which gets converted to kinetic energy when the power is drawn by the motor, which in conventional vehicles relies on fossil fuels. In electric two-wheelers, battery packs are made of several individual lithium-ion cells.

In March and April alone, over a dozen electric two-wheelers caught fire, prompting Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari to constitute an expert committee to examine EV manufacturing issues, especially those related to two-wheelers. Notices were sent to at least five manufacturers after which three of them recalled 6,656 such two-wheelers. So far, at least three people have died due to electric two-wheelers catching fire in separate incidents.

The expert committee was constituted with independent experts from the DRDO’s Centre for Fire Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL), Visakhapatnam.

“We have received the committee report. It has submitted three overarching faults in the batteries of EVs -- first, a lack of venting mechanism in cells; second, faults in the BMS of such e-scooters; third, deficiency in the assembly or arrangement of cells in battery packs. The report has also pointed out lapses on the part of testing agencies (with regard to batteries). Orders have been drafted for imposing a monetary penalty on the companies that erred and it is awaiting approval of the finance ministry. Following the findings of the expert panel, we are also coming up with stringent regulations to ensure compliance of safety standards in EV batteries,” MoRTH secretary Giridhar Aramane said.

A second senior ministry official requesting anonymity said manufacturing faults were found in a total of five companies, but penalties will be imposed only on three as they continued to sell their e-scooters while the other two stopped sales of the affected models. HT is refraining from naming the companies as formal orders on the penalty are yet to be issued.

“The ministry has also taken cognisance of the failures on the part of the battery testing agencies in India. But no penalty is being imposed on them as there are seven such agencies and taking such action will push production timelines not just for EVs, but also for ICE vehicles. So, mandates will be included in the upcoming regulations for testing agencies as well. Such agencies, a majority of which are government-run, will have to thoroughly check compliance to production norms in EVs. These testing agencies will also be asked to do better sampling,” said the second official.

Responding to questions raised by parliamentarians, the ministry of heavy industries in July said that incidents of electric two-wheelers catching fire were reported mostly from two states, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, in March and April this year. It added that the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) has sent notices to the manufacturers concerned.

“Testing of components for EVs is done as per relevant standards, as specified in Rule 126 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rule, 1989 to ensure compliance. Based on the information of fire incidents available, MoRTH has issued a show cause notice to the CEOs and MDs of the concerned two-wheeler electric scooter manufacturers, to explain the reasons as to why the relevant sections of the Motor Vehicles Act should not be invoked against them,” the ministry stated in its written reply.

Transport ministry officials said that after this some of the manufacturers recalled their two-wheels, while a few others either stopped selling or reduced sales.

“Several companies have gone back to the drawing board ever since. Their research wings are rebuilding e-scooters with new, safer battery arrangements. The new draft regulations will be out by the end of this month to seek comments from states; after reviewing the feedback, it will be notified with the necessary changes, if any,” the official added.

In its reply to Parliament last month, the heavy industries ministry said a total of 6,656 electric two-wheelers have been recalled by manufacturers so far. Okinawa recalled 3,215 units of vehicles on April 16, Pure EV recalled 2,000 units of vehicles on April 21 and Ola Electric recalled 1,441 units of vehicles on April 23, it said.

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