Electric Vehicles bane or loom - Electric scooters fire catching

Are the Electric Scooters bane or boon to the consumers?

With so many incidents of E-scooter burning and likes coming to the forefront, the current question to highlight here is, Are the electric scooters bane or boon to consumers?

In Nashik district of Maharashtra, very recently more than 20 electric scooters from Jitendra EV were engulfed in flames near the companys factory. 

The fire broke out when the two-wheelers were transferred in a container, meant to go to Bengaluru.

Thankfully, there were no losses of lives. The company has begun an inquiry into the reason behind the fire.

According to the news releases, the container carried 40 scooters, and all the 40 components have been destroyed due to fire. 

An unfortunate incident took place on 9th April near our factory gate in a scooter transport container. The situation was immediately brought under control by a timely intervention from our team. We are inspecting the problem till the bottom and will come up with the explanations in a few days, as public security is of top value, said a spokesperson of Jitendra EV.

This is the fifth occurrence comprising electric two-wheelers seizing fire over the past three weeks - on March 26, 2022, an Ola S1 Pro electric scooter was the first casualty in Pune, then another fire-related episode of an Okinawa electric scooter happened in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. 

On March 28, 2022, another blaze was recorded from Trichy in Tamil Nadu, and a fourth happening was noted on March 29, 2022, when a Pure EV electric scooter caught fire in Chennai.

An investigation into the increasing figure of fire-related cases in electric scooters has been approved by the Government of India. Since the market for these vehicles has become very high, the major problem is the quality of the EVs.

Firms making the EVs have been instructed to administer the safety and quality of EVs in a section that has just noticed a sharp rise in demand. The quality of batteries and battery control systems (BMS) these electric scooters are utilizing are under observance.

Ola S! Electric Scooters in fire
Ola S! Electric Scooters in fire

Why And How Does An Electric Vehicle Battery Explode? 

Four electric scooters went up in flames because of technical blunders, over the past four days. People might think twice before buying EVs, due to the regularity of such accidents.

Lithium-ion batteries, either used in electric vehicles or electronic gadgets, are exposed to sparks if they havent been properly constructed or if the software that runs the battery is not developed suitably, according to the news agency Reuters.

What are batteries made of?

A battery is composed of cells, and these cells are just like a matter which is packed with a distinct form of energy. Since energy can neither be generated nor demolished, it still can alter its structure.

In a battery, the energy is conserved in the form of electricity (motion of ions), which rushes between two oppositely charged electrodes divided by a separator.

There are two types of batteries - lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries. The only distinction between the two of them is their energy density. When one ion of lithium-ion battery moves from anode to cathode or cathode to anode, it transmits almost thrice the energy as the lead-acid battery. 

An electric scooter/vehicle has ample amount of stocked energy, to handle the entire house with its power for three to four days without any difficulty. An EV battery contains plenty of energy, thats enough to destroy the vehicle, its driver, or people close by.

How do batteries catch fire?

Fire doesnt need a lot of energy for its outburst. All it takes is the shortest time shelf to discharge every small amount of energy stored inside the battery. 

Each battery has an anode, cathode, and a separator. If a blast occurs, its simply due to these three segments. If a Lithium-ion battery stores 1kWh of storage space, it will be self-sufficient for explosion if all of that 1kWh is expelled in a matter of seconds. The separator dividing the other two - anode and cathode - just lets their ions transmit, if it cuts or is wrecked, in that case, the short circuit happens leading to a boom. 

The main reason for the explosion of batteries is their separator, with EV batteries. The primary goal of the separator is to save the stuff of both anode and cathode, but proceed with the transfer of ions. Yet, due to market demand and progress in technology, the separator is being created thinner and thinner. 

As the separator is fragile, it malfunctions because of outer pressure or inner chemical imbalance. Though separators can be long-lasting, in such conditions, even one issue with the battery can lead to massive casualty.

The batteries widen slightly, during charging and when released, they shorten a bit, building stress on the separator, which may stop working properly. If the separator weakens the moment the anode and cathode touch together, it leads to a short circuit increasing the chance of a blast.

The Ola S1 Pro is in the news for catching fire while parked under broad daylight, blowing up in flames instantly.

There have been other incidents of electric scooters catching fire across the country, leaving consumers and others shocked.

Electric scooters have never been more popular in India than they are now. With petrol prices soaring almost every day, many two-wheeler riders across the country are perhaps looking at buying an electric scooter to evade the petrol price hikes. But the recent spate of electric scooters catching fire has put some of them in a fix, leaving them confused.

Ola issued a statement, saying it is looking into the matter. In the meantime, the central government has deputed a team of independent experts to examine the incident.

Electric scooters from firms of Okinawa, Pure EV, and HCD India, along with Ola, have recorded fire-related accidents… However, it has left a lot of buyers worried and for the newbie electric vehicle business in India, its a bad indication.

Why are electric scooters catching fire in India?

Electric scooters are powered by batteries - lithium-ion being the most accepted technology in use. These lithium-ion batteries come in two variants - LFP and NMC. LFP (lithium ferro phosphate), is quite stronger than NMC (nickel manganese cobalt), with a much higher limit for thermal runaway at 270 degrees Celsius versus 150 degrees celsius.

NMC batteries are denser and hence, offer an extended range than LFP batteries. But, their lower thermal runaway limit means that the risk of these batteries malfunctioning is bigger. 

This gets worse in the Indian climate, where the temperatures come close to 50 degrees celsius in certain parts of the country in the summer.

What is thermal runaway?

Thermal runaway is a process wherein the temperature of the battery rises and emits energy, which in turn inflates the temperature around the battery, ending up in a vicious cycle of temperature increase and finally heading to a fire.

If you own an electric scooter, should you be concerned?

According to a report released by RISE, a Sweden-based research institute, there can be various causes for thermal runaway.

This can be provoked by even a short circuit in the battery pack, caused due to a circuit malfunction or mishaps damaging the battery pack.

With the adoption of electric vehicles rising in India, reports of these sorts of incidents are also bound to happen more. 

This is just a result of a growth in the number of electric vehicles in the market, but still consumer safety continues to be of supreme importance.

What can you do to reduce the catching of fire in your electric vehicle?

While its impossible to curtail the risk of these accidents to nil, consumers can observe specific dos and donts to confirm they lessen the risk.

The EVs are accompanied by new risks, but there is no evidence that points at EVs being less safe than conventional vehicles, RISE added in its report.

Keeping that in mind, lets look at some essential dos and donts:

  1. Read the vehicle brochure carefully - you must know how your electric vehicle operates to make sure you handle it properly.
  1. Dont reveal the vehicles batteries to direct sunlight.
  1. Keeping your electric vehicle at room temperature helps.
  1. Dont leave the electric vehicle unaccompanied while charging.
  1. Dont leave the electric vehicle charging overnight.
  1. Make sure to keep a record of the batterys fitness. Your vehicles battery surveillance network will alert you in case of any irregularities.
  1. Make sure you get your electric vehicle repaired on time to assure everything is conducted naturally.

Some more tips to avoid Electric Two-wheelers from grabbing fire: 

  • On hot summer days, speed up your electric scooter in a gentle manner.
  • Avoiding direct sunlight, always park your electric vehicle in shadow.
  • Handle the battery pack while swapping with utmost care.
  • On hot days, drive an EV in a fairly ordinary way.
  • Try to charge your EV at night in summer but avoid unattended overnight charging.
  • Only after the battery of an EV cools down to room temperature, plug the scooter for charging.
  • Use of unauthorized chargers is not advised.
  • Evade charging close to the hot and warm area.
EV fires

There is no denying the fact that electric vehicles are here to stay in the long run, if all the careful measures are followed for their proper functioning, as they emit ZERO POLLUTION in the air. 

Slowly but gradually, dependency on fossil fuels will come to an end hopefully sometime in the future.