Learning from EV battery mishaps

The demand for EVs outstrips the supply. Manufacturers, in a bid to get a leg up on the competition, could be skipping a few crucial steps to cater to that demand

EV charging stations to run on PPP model in Ahmedabad

India is witnessing a rise in EV sales, especially two-wheelers. This strong surge in demand will set us up for the next phase of EV adoption. However, as with the adoption of any new technology, we are currently witnessing some teething issues. Over the last few month, an alarming number of electric two-wheelers have been subject to failures that, in retrospect, should never have occurred. Videos and images of electric two-wheelers engulfed in flames have been doing the rounds, giving rise to a lot of misinformation. This has understandably caused potential EV buyers to rethink their upcoming purchases. Throwing in the towel now would be unwise, especially when this issue can be corrected with the right training and guidance.

While it is true that India has been under a vice-like grip of a heatwave recently, it is highly unlikely that excessive ambient heat is the cause for the battery systems in these vehicles to malfunction. Lithium-ion cells, which most electric two-wheelers in India employ, would need to be subjected to well above 100°C before they combust. That said, high temperatures, the kind we have been witnessing, can lead to a negative impact when it comes to the performance of the battery and even shorten its life. What it all comes down to is a rigorous policy of intensive quality checks and exhaustive testing. Battery manufacturers need to confer with their supply chain and put stringent tests and checks in place, starting from the design stage. Here, no detail is too small, be it the choice of cells being employed in the batteries, the manufacturing processes, its design, and the strategy employed by the manufacturer. These are all important aspects to get right if we are to avoid incidents and malfunctions when it comes to Evs.

As an example, several manufacturers have an in-built safety feature wherein a sensor detects if the ambient temperature is beyond the 45-55°C operating range. If it is, it automatically shuts off until an optimal running temperature is detected. This not only ensures that there is no chance of it coming close to a serious malfunction, but it also ensures the longevity and overall health of the battery. On that note, it is also prudent to admit that while rapid charging stations may present a far more convenient timeline in which you can juice your vehicle up, it is also a big reason why batteries overheat in the first place. A slow charge may not only ensure your vehicle’s health, but it will also make sure you can use your EV for a good number of years without any trouble.

As mentioned earlier, if we are unable to take charge of every step of the manufacturing process of these batteries, it could lead to consequences much like what we are seeing today. It is no secret that most of the fires we are seeing today are because of short-circuiting, which leads to an unregulated supply of electricity to the batteries, thereby pushing the temperatures up to far more than advisable limits.

In a sense, it is not hard to see why this is happening. The demand for EVs today outstrips the supply. Manufacturers, in a bid to get a leg up on the competition, could skip past a few crucial steps to cater to that demand. For instance, it is quite simple to skimp on fire suppressant materials in EVs because they lead to additional costs, volume, and weight requirements. While meeting targets is important, it should not come at the cost of overlooking crucial safety measures.

The situation we are in now is one of overwhelming demand. Faster manufacturing and assembly times are obvious solutions, but just like a toddler learning to walk, it needs to be done gradually and assuredly. Typically, when manufacturing times are hastened in such a manner, quality check challenges are bound to be a part of the equation, but it is something that must be dealt with immediately instead of brushing under the carpet for a later date. Ignoring these issues leads to the kind of problems we have today.

However, the onus of progress lies not just with the manufacturers alone. There needs to be a strong directive towards educating the end-user on practices that will ensure the safety and health of not just their EVs, but the users themselves. Understanding, for instance, that EVs should not be charged the moment they have been switched off after a ride, and that their running principles differ in certain key areas compared to internal combustion vehicles; are areas that need to be addressed and imparted to an EV buyer.

Looking from a macro lens, such incidents are a part of the learning curve in the adoption of a new technology. The crucial takeaway from this is that we learn from our mistakes, dust ourselves off, come out stronger, and move toward a brighter future. It was not too long back that a now-global four-wheeler EV behemoth had its vehicles involved in a spate of fires one after the other. Far from throwing in the towel, however, it learned from its mistakes and went on to dominate the global EV market. Given the right practices and guidelines, India is well on its way to just that future.

(The writer is CEO at Hero Electric.)

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

Most Read In Opinion