scorecardElectric scooters are catching fire in India – should users be worried?
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Electric scooters are catching fire in India – should users be worried?

Electric scooters are catching fire in India – should users be worried?
Business4 min read
  • The Ola S1 Pro is in the news for catching fire while parked, blowing up in flames instantaneously.
  • There have been other incidents of electric scooters catching fire across the country, leaving customers and others shocked.
  • But should you be worried? And what can you do? Here’s a primer on the matter.
Electric scooters have never been more popular in India than they are now. With petrol prices rising almost every day, many two-wheeler riders across the country are probably looking at buying an electric scooter to escape the petrol price hikes. But the recent spate of electric scooters catching fire has put some of them in a bind, leaving them worried and confused.

Most recently, a parked Ola S1 Pro scooter caught fire without any specific intervention from anyone, raising an alarm and concerns about the safety of the electric scooter. 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 investigate the incident.

“We’re in constant touch with the customer, who is absolutely fine. Vehicle safety is of paramount importance at Ola and we are committed to the highest quality standards in our products. We take this incident seriously and will take appropriate action and share more in the coming days,” the company added in its statement.

Apart from Ola, electric scooters from other companies like Okinawa, Pure EV and HCD India have also been reported to catch fire.

Regardless, it has left a lot of customers perplexed and for the fledgling electric vehicle industry in India, it is not a good sign.

So, what is going on with these electric scooters catching fire? Should you be worried? We try to answer some of these questions and concerns.
Why are electric scooters catching fire in India?
Electric scooters are powered by batteries – lithium-ion being the most common technology in use.

Further, these lithium-ion batteries come in two variants – LFP and NMC. LFP (lithium ferrophosphate), is relatively more stable than NMC (nickel manganese cobalt), with a much higher threshold for thermal runaway at 270 degrees celsius versus 150 degrees celsius, respectively.

NMC batteries are denser and therefore, offer a longer range than LFP batteries. However, their lower thermal runaway threshold means that the risk of these batteries malfunctioning is higher. This gets worse in the Indian climate, where the temperatures inch 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 increases, releases energy, which in turn increases the temperature, ending up in a vicious cycle of temperature increase and eventually leading to a fire.
If you own an electric scooter, should you be worried?
According to a report by RISE, a Sweden-based research institute, there can be several reasons for thermal runaway.

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

With the adoption of electric vehicles increasing in India, reports of these sorts of incidents are also bound to surface more. This is simply a result of an increase in the number of electric vehicles in the market, but consumer safety remains of paramount importance nonetheless.
What can you do to reduce the chances of your electric vehicle catching fire?
While it is not completely possible to reduce the risk of these accidents to zero, consumers can follow certain dos and don’ts to ensure they minimise the risk.

“There is no denying that 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.

With that in mind, let’s look at some important dos and don’ts:

  • Read the vehicle booklet carefully – many of us are new to electric vehicles, so it is important that you understand how your electric vehicle works to make sure you operate it properly.
  • Don’t expose the vehicle’s batteries to direct sunlight.
  • Try to keep your electric vehicle at room temperature.
  • Don’t leave the electric vehicle unattended while charging.
  • Don’t leave the electric vehicle on charging overnight.
  • Make sure you keep a tab on battery health. Your vehicle’s battery management system will alert you in case of any abnormalities.
  • Make sure you get your electric vehicle serviced on time to ensure everything is functioning normally.
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