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Many reasons behind e-bikes catching fire, unbranded cells one of them, says Neuron Energy co-founder Pratik Kamdar

India imports lithium-ion cells from multiple countries. Currently, India does not have a lithium-ion cell manufacturer in India.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Mumbai |
Updated: April 5, 2022 4:32:59 pm
Many reasons behind e-bikes catching fire, unbranded cells one of them, says Neuron Energy co-founder Pratik KamdarPratik Kamdar, the co-founder of Mumbai-based Neuron Energy

The recent incidents of e-bikes catching fire have brought to focus the safety aspect of these new-age vehicles. Pratik Kamdar, the co-founder of Mumbai-based Neuron Energy which is involved in providing batteries for e-vehicles, spoke to The Indian Express about the possible cause of the fire and the way forward.

The recent incidents where an Ola scooter and an Okinawa vehicle caught fire have put the focus on battery safety for e-vehicles. What are the probable causes of these incidents? Of course, the company has deputed a team to study this, but as an industry expert what do you think could have caused these fires?

The average temperature in India is above 40 degrees during the summer. The cells are imported or designed for average temperatures to be around 30-35 degrees. However, the reason for the fire cannot be attributed to a single issue. Thermal runaway, battery design, insulation within the battery box, and quality of cell used in the battery pack could be one of the many reasons for the occurrence of frequent fires in EV vehicles.

What are the safety standards in terms of battery safety of e-vehicles? What are the global and Indian standards? Is the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) the testing authority for this and what kind of tests are conducted before vehicles are released?

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The testing authority has ensured that cells and battery packs are tested and approved. They conduct a wide range of vibration tests, load tests and penetration tests under AIS048 testing. However, BMS plays an extremely important role to ensure the battery pack is controlled and has the right settings to ensure the voltage and current cut-offs are put in place. Choice of cells, BMS design, and thermal runway management will ensure that the safety of the vehicle is taken care of. Most incidents of fire are due to cheap quality unbranded cells being used by manufacturers across India.

Some government quarters have expressed fears that in India where temperatures can zoom past 40, fire hazards can be an added concern for vehicles. What is your comment on this?

Other than lithium-ion batteries, what else can be used for driving the e-vehicles? LFP (lithium iron phosphate) chemistry in lithium-ion should be the preferred choice over NMC (Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt oxide) Chemistry. LFP has a lower energy density compared to NMC and due to this, the chances of fires tend to reduce. However, the electric two-wheeler requires compact sizes based on the designs created by the manufacturer. Ninety per cent of the industry today is using NMC Chemistry over LFP due to compactness and slightly greater range.

Have there been reports of fires outside the country on e-vehicles?

There have been multiple incidents of fire across many countries, including China and the USA.

How import-dependent are we on these batteries? What can be the way forward to make us less import-dependent?

India imports lithium-ion cells from multiple countries. Currently, India does not have a lithium-ion cell manufacturer in India. However, with announcements coming in, we expect many large corporates to set up lithium-ion cell manufacturing in India. We expect this to greatly help the industry.

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