FOR the first time, India is set to begin testing of electric vehicles (EV) from April 1 next year and the government has mandated Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) to procure the infrastructure needed to test battery-powered vehicles.
The Heavy Industries ministry is learnt to have allocated Rs 44 crore to ARAI to set up the requisite infrastructure for testing, certification, and development of electric and hybrid vehicles. This is envisaged to be in place by the time a new testing schedule for EVs comes into effect, a senior government official has told The Sunday Express.
This comes amid concerns over multiple instances of fires in electric two-wheelers and four-wheelers in recent months.
Currently, there are no centralised testing facilities for EVs in India and manufacturers have their own benchmarks. In June, in the first major step towards standardisation of battery technology, the Bureau of Indian Standards issued performance norms for lithium-ion battery packs and traction systems in line with broader ISO norms.
The proposed testing infrastructure at ARAI is likely to cover battery cells, battery management systems, onboard chargers, battery pack designs and screen for thermal propagation linked to internal cell short circuits that could potentially lead to fires in EVs.
“We have chosen ARAI as they have better systems in place to implement this testing system. EV technology is set to evolve and we would add more agencies in the fold for testing as and when required,” said the top government official who did not want to be identified.
The official added that the industry has also been given enough time to prepare for the safety regulations, a key step towards addressing the concerns of the prospective buyers.
The ARAI currently offers a range of certification and homologation services for automotive vehicles, systems, and components and assists the government in the formulation of automotive industry standards and harmonisation of regulations, alongside helping establish vehicle inspection and certification centres across the country.
Globally, there is no single EV standard. Japan, China, countries in Europe and North America have safety standards that promote different norms in four key areas: safety, charging connectors, charging topology and charging-related communications. India is set to broadly follow the same philosophy for its testing standards — updating them as tech evolves.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had, late last month, extended the rollout of amendments to electric vehicle battery testing standards from October 1, 2022 to a staggered two-phased implementation schedule over the next six months.
The amendments to the EV battery testing standards — Automotive Industry Standards-156 (or AIS-156) and AIS-038 — will be implemented in two phases: phase one from December 1, 2022 and phase two from March 31, 2023.
The AIS-156 includes motor vehicles in the L category — those with less than four wheels and an electric powertrain. The second amendment — AIS-038 — regulates vehicles with electric power trains for M category (those with four wheels and used to carry passengers) and N category (electric four-wheelers used to carry both goods and passengers).
Incidentally, electric two-wheeler makers such as Ola Electric, Okinawa Autotech and PureEV have been forced to recall their scooters in the wake of fire incidents. The reasons for fire may include manufacturing defects, external damage, or faults in the deployment in the battery management system. In some cases, faulty charging could also have been the reason.
A Tata Nexon EV caught fire in Maharashtra in June. The Nexon EV is the country’s largest-selling mass-market electric vehicle. There are over 30,000 Nexon EVs on road, which have cumulatively covered over 100 million km in nearly four years, Tata Motors had said in a statement, citing the fire incident as an aberration of sorts. “It is a very isolated case… It is something that has got to do with that particular car. Maybe a particular cell, which is unexplained. We have done all kinds of experiments in what could have been the worst possible situation and it has passed all tests. It is an aberration,” Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles Managing Director Shailesh Chandra said on the sidelines of the SIAM conference last month.
The EV testing push compliments the government’s redoubled focus on electric vehicles as well as on other forms of alternative fuel with a larger aim to reduce its crude import bill.
The government has achieved partial success — high fuel prices have also helped the transition – with companies such as Tata Motors, MG and Hyundai Motor having EV models in the markets.
According to government data, India had over 1.3 million electric vehicles until end of June — over half are three-wheelers; a bulk of the remaining vehicles being two-wheelers, with four-wheelers making up the rest.
The country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki has not introduced an EV in the market as yet, though it is working jointly with Toyota Kirloskar Motor to develop a battery electric vehicle in India. The company has also indicated it may stop making pure-play petrol cars within the next 10 years and look at fitting all new models with some electric powertrain assist, including a strong hybrid line-up.
The government is also targeting to go all-electric in terms of new car sales in the country by 2030, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari had said.