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With several national and international brands consistently launching greener alternatives to fuel-powered vehicles, electric vehicles (EVs) are all the rage in India. While everyone is talking about the greener future and rising sales, eco-friendly vehicles seem to have a flaw too - they can catch fire. 

Recently there were some reports of electric vehicles catching fire in India. Globally also there were many incidents in the past. What seems to be the problem? Are there ways to prevent it? Let’s take a look and understand.

Why are EVs Catching Fire?

The fact is that every vehicle is prone to catching fire, whether electric or run on some other fuel. However, in the case of conventional vehicles, several reasons could lead to a fire. But with EVs, it is almost always the battery. 

The issue with EV batteries is that even if a single cell of the entire battery system is faulty, it could have disastrous consequences. The vulnerability lies in the use of high-capacity batteries and innovative cathode materials. Let us try to understand these in detail.

EVs Have High Capacity Batteries

Most of the EVs are powered by lithium-ion batteries. You might have already heard about them as they are commonly used in smartphones and laptops. However, the batteries used in electric vehicles are fundamentally very different from the ones used in daily use appliances and devices in several ways. 

For instance, EV batteries can have up to 3 times more capacity than standard Lithium-ion batteries. They are exposed to temperature extremes, higher charging rates, discharge, vibration, and external elements such as dust, water, and humidity. Also, there is a rising demand from consumers to have EVs with a higher driving range. 

To make this possible, manufacturers are equipping the vehicles with batteries with higher capacities but compact in size as they also need to ensure maximum battery mobility. So, the solution is to use longer cell strings with flammable electrolytes. 

EV Batteries Have Newer Electrolytes

The demand for higher capacity and range has also forced manufacturers to use newer electrolyte materials that are highly flammable in nature. Lithium, along with materials such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, or aluminum, is commonly used in EV batteries. 

Normally, the electrolyte and cathode electrochemically convert the stored energy. However, if the materials that have been used in the electrolyte react chemically in the cell, the electrolyte and cathode material start converting chemical energy into gas and heat to result in a fire. 

How to Prevent Electric Vehicles from Catching Fire?

While users should also handle their EV batteries with the utmost care, the onus of protecting EVs from catching fire is on the manufacturers and Government regulations. India has already introduced the AIS 156 standard for battery testing. It is an upgraded version of AIS 048 and abundantly focuses on the reasons that could lead to an EV battery catching fire. 

AIS 156 compliant EVs undergo extensive tests, including thermal shock, vibration, overcharge, short circuit, mechanical shock, mechanical drop, water resistance, and temperature and discharge test. Moreover, there is also a fire resistance test where the battery has to withstand a direct flame for at least 2 minutes. 

Why are EVs Still Catching Fire Then?

While the updated AIS 156 is significantly better than the older standards and effectively tests electric vehicles against the majority of the reasons that can result in a fire, the implementation is not up to the mark. As AIS 156 is a stringent set of quality tests, there are only a few companies that have qualified for it. Most of the EVs that have recently caught fire were only compliant with the older AIS 048 standard. 

So, while tougher standards are required to prevent electric vehicles from catching fire, implementation is also critical. If manufacturers are able to get their EVs on the road by only passing AIS 048, the fire problem is expected to continue in the future too. At the same time, it is also essential for the companies to improve their internal testing and prefer using quality components over cost-cutting. 

The Future of EVs in India

While clean energy vehicles are the future, some Indians may still be hesitant about whether they want to make the switch. EVs catching fire could possibly be one cause of that. However, the Government and other sustainable companies are working towards implementing strict quality standards. 

At eWheelers Mobility, we take stringent measures while choosing the vehicles in order to protect the consumers and make electric vehicles in India the preferred choice for transportation. Explore through our wide range of eBikes and choose the right one as per your need.

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