Why do EVs catch Fire ?

By Anuj Guglani,  Co-Founder, Jaldi EV 

This summer, the TV channels have shown several EVs catching fire. Few E Buses, fewer cars but it’s the Electric 2 Wheeler models where most fire incidents were reported. 

So why are Electric Scooters more vulnerable to fire than other electric vehicles ?

Now that’s an important question and also one of the reasons why Jaldi EV got formed to promote quality EVs. 

To answer this question, we have to study the electric 2 wheeler market a bit more. 

There are hundreds of E 2W brands in the market. Majority of them are cheap imports from China. They get launched by simply importing CKD kits which are assembled using a screwdriver or some basic tools in a tiny workshop. If you have seen the electric toy cars being assembled at toy shops, well just a little bit more of tools, gadgets and space!

There’s no testing, no validation, no adaptation of electrical systems for automotive applications. 

Till last year the most electric 2W sold were the low speed models which legally run upto 25 kmph only. They don’t need any homologation, no registration hence would get missed by the authorities for standards, testing and validation. 

There the importers would fiddle with the motor, give three speed modes increasing it to 45 kmph thereby making it a surrogate high speed or mid speed model. 

So with so much tampering, leeway what do you get ? You get products which can be compromised for quality, performance and most importantly safety. 

If the batteries used are low quality & cheap ones mated to a similar low end BMS with changed motor and no testing or proper adaptation, it’s nothing but a game plan for disaster. 

So what explodes or catches fire in an EV ?

Well mostly its the battery or the cells. There’s a term called Thermal runaway. It is a situation in the battery cells where the temperatures go up drastically and leads to a chemical reaction. That in turn becomes a chain reaction and further increases the temperature of the other cells and thereby leading to explosion or fire. 

It’s caused mostly due to low quality battery, short circuit, excessive high ambient temperature, not doing proper testing of the battery, motor , motor controller assembly. 

Thermal runaway is a typical trait of lithium ion batteries and one needs extra precautionary measures and some basic quality and safety measures in place. 

How could a fire incident be reported at Ather Energy ? 

People ask this question all the time. A company like Ather Energy, so deeply invested in R&D, setting quality standards and benchmarks for the world to follow and still reporting fire incidents. 

This only goes to prove technology does not spare anyone. If you are negligent, you pay a price even if you are othewise the best in R&D and quality. 

It was reported that one of the battery cells was exposed in that particular Ather vehicle which came for service. 

Lithium on coming in contact with water catches fire and causes an explosion. There are several videos on youtube to showcase that . 

So it was probably during cleaning or washing of the vehicle that the exposed battery cell came in contact with water and rest is history. 

There are a few basic dos and don’ts for operating the EVs like : 

  1. Not to park outside in direct sunlight especially during hot summer days
  2. Maintaining sufficient time gap between charging and usage. 
  3. Using the right company charger to charge the vehicle 
  4. Not to fiddle with the motor, battery or any equipment by oneself or a local electrician or technician.
  5. Getting the vehicle inspected and serviced regularly as per the company prescribed interval.

So let’s be quality conscious. Lets ask the right questions and follow basic safety protocols. Its a new technology, it is evolving and getting better by the day. 

EV are surely the future, let’s embrace them with Quality and Safety!

Anilkumar Mehta

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