Fire incidents will not hamper growth of EV industry, says Okinawa MD

Two of Okinawa’s scooters had caught fire in March and April and the company recalled 3,215 electric scooters following the incidents.

Jeetender Sharma, MD of Okinawa Scooters

The recent fire incidents, involving electric scooters of several companies, will not impact the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) industry, but compel manufacturers to improve their processes, Okinawa Autotech’s founder and managing director Jeetender Sharma, told Fe. Two of Okinawa’s scooters had caught fire in March and April and the company recalled 3,215 electric scooters following the incidents.

“At the end of the day, it (electric scooter) is a mechanical product running on the road. There might be an error at any time. It can be manufacturer’s fault, rider’s fault or due to any other reason,” Sharma said. “Do you think a couple of scooters can define our quality system? We have not made any changes in the model or its components, nor have we changed the supplier. But as a responsible brand, we voluntarily recalled our vehicles,” Sharma added.

Apart from Okinawa, electric scooters of companies like Ola, Pure EV, Jitendra New EV and Boom Motors had also caught fire around the same period. Following it, the ministry of road transport and highways had set up a committee comprising experts from Naval Science and Technological Laboratory (NSTL), Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES) and Indian Institute of Science, which submitted its report to the government earlier this week.

“We are the first EV company in India to have IATF (International Automotive Task Force) certification. We follow all the norms related to the products and batteries prescribed by it as well as the government,” Sharma said.

Since launching its first product in India in 2017, Okinawa has sold more than 150,000 units in the country. At present, the company’s electric scooter range includes lithium-ion high-speed models like Okhi-90, IPraise+, Praisepro and Ridge+, and lithium-ion slow-speed models like R30, Lite and Dual.

Okinawa had launched Praisepro, the model involved in two separate fire incidents, in 2018. The Praise family’s contribution has been close to 100,000 units in Okinawa’s overall volumes.

When asked if the fire incidents will impact the growth of the EV industry, Sharma said: “I do not think so. The example of voluntary recalls, which we and other companies set, will give more confidence to the customers.”

“Such incidents (EV fire) will only compel the manufacturers to improve their processes even further so that they don’t get repeated,” Sharma added.

Other than Okinawa, Ola and Pure EV recalled 1,441 units and 2,000 units, respectively, after the incidents of fire.

Okinawa had signed an agreement with Italian electric two-wheeler maker Tacita earlier this month to form a joint venture (JV) for manufacturing electric scooters and motorcycles for domestic and international markets.

“As part of the JV, we will open an R&D centre in Europe where our engineers and their engineers will work together. The products developed under the JV will be manufactured in India by Okinawa,” Sharma said, adding that discussions regarding the JV started almost two years back.

Okinawa currently has a couple of manufacturing facilities in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan. The first facility has an annual installed production capacity of 90,000 units, while it is 300,000 units for the second facility, which began operations earlier this year in February.

The company had recently launched Okhi-90 electric scooter. It is now planning to switch all its slow-speed models to high-speed. “High-speed models make up 90% of our total volumes even now. The switch to completely high-speed models will happen by Q3 CY22,” Sharma said.

The company will introduce the Okhi-100 electric motorcycle, one of the products it is working on as part of the JV with Tacita, either towards the end of CY22 or the beginning of CY23.

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