By Linus Garg
First publised on 2022-04-22 06:07:02
Given the number of electric vehicles on Indian roads, the number of incidents of vehicles catching fire due to battery conflagrations is above average. Although this is happening mostly with two-wheelers, the threat perception in the minds of those owning EVs and those thinking of buying one is growing. Safety considerations are of prime importance when one buys a vehicle and if reports of EVs catching fire or batteries exploding continue to come out, people will unfortunately turn their backs on EVs and that will push India back in its endeavor to cut back on vehicular emission by adopting EVs at a fast pace. The government has been incentivizing both production and purchase of EVs by offering tax benefits and production-linked incentives to producers and subsidies and permit and road tax benefits to consumers. But price and running costs will become secondary if the consumer is not convinced about the safety of the vehicles.
The government has taken note of the rising incidents of battery conflagrations. It has constituted an expert committee to inquire into the incidents of fire and suggest remedial steps. Transport minister Nitin Gadkari warned EV manufacturers of 'heavy penalty' if they were found negligent in their processes and also advised recalling of vehicles to rectify battery and other possible architectural defects, failing which he said that a recall of all defective vehicles will be ordered. He also said that the government will soon issue quality-centric guidelines for electric vehicles. In the meantime, the government also unveiled the draft battery swap policy that is likely to give a push to use of EVs by allowing swapping of discharged batteries with charged ones at swapping stations (although experts say that the prohibitive cost of swapping will not enthuse the B2C sector.
To reach its climate goals, India is committed to promote the use of sustainable and non-polluting fuel. EV manufacturers will have to ensure that quality and safety standards are not compromised. Since it is going to be a huge market, it will also be beneficial for their brand if they are able to churn out zero-problem vehicles. Hence, while manufacturers should reexamine their processes to make the vehicles safer, the government must keep watch but must not over-regulate the sector. Finally, market dynamics will ensure the survival of the EVs that will meet quality standards and are safe.