Inadequate testing, poor expertise in battery making ail India’s electric vehicle industry
The Committee constituted by the Centre to investigate instances of batteries in electric vehicles malfunctioning and catching fire has deduced that these are often due to inadequate testing of such batteries for Indian conditions, limited expertise in manufacturing batteries and part of a “learning curve” that accompanied increased adoption of battery-operated vehicles.
‘Priority to safety’
- Each electric vehicle system has its own battery charging and energy management system.
- One of the reasons for these thermal incidents is that batteries have not been properly integrated into the vehicles.
- The batteries used to power electric vehicles, both cars and two-wheelers, are of the lithium-ion category or similar to the kinds used in mobile phones.
Reasons for fire in Electric Vehicles
- Although the exact reason is not known, the short circuiting due to negligence in charging the vehicle can be one of the reasons.
- Other reasons - External damage, Manufacturing defects, faults in development, overcharging, extremely high temperature etc.
Battery management system
- It is basically an electronic system that is connected to all the cells in a Li-ion battery pack, which constantly measure their voltage and the current flowing through it.
- It is also equipped with a myriad of temperature sensors, providing it information on temperatures at different sections of the battery pack.
- All this data helps the BMS calculate other parameters of a battery pack, like the charging and discharging rate, battery life cycle, and efficiency.
Electric Vehicles (EVs)
- An EV operates on an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine and has a battery instead of a fuel tank.
- In general, EVs have low running costs as they have fewer moving parts and are also environmentally friendly.
- In India, the fuel cost for an EV is approximately 80 paisa per kilometre. Contrast this with the cost of petrol which is today more than Rs 100 per litre in Indian cities, or Rs 7-8 per kilometre to operate a petrol-based vehicle.
- They are environmentally friendly as they use minimum or no fossil fuels.
- They have low running costs as they have less moving parts for maintenance.
- Electric motors provide quiet, smooth operation and stronger acceleration and require less maintenance than internal combustion engines.
- They convert more than 77% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels.
- They are helping in reducing energy dependency.
Prospects in India
- The private sector has appreciated the inevitability of the dominance of the EV.
- Companies like Amazon, Swiggy, Zomato and Ikea are deploying EVs for deliveries.
- Car manufacturers like Mahindra are partnering with consumers like Ola, while Tata Motors is partnering with Blu Smart Mobility in moves that will ensure more EV delivery and ride-hailing services.
- Lack of Charging Infrastructure: The real challenge for the consumer is the lack of charging infrastructure in India.
- EVs are typically powered by lithium-based batteries. These batteries need to be charged usually every 200-250 kilometres or so for a car. So, there is a need for a dense proliferation of charging points.
- Issue of Slow Charging: It takes up to 12 hours for a full charge of a vehicle at the owner’s home using a private light-duty slow charger. To compound this technological problem of slow charging at home, there are a few charging stations around the country.
- This is woefully inadequate in a country as large and densely populated as ours.
- Lack of a Stable Policy For EV Production: EV production is a capital intensive sector requiring long term planning to break even and profit realization, uncertainty in government policies related to EV production discourages investment in the industry.
- Technological Challenges: India is technologically deficient in the production of electronics that form the backbone of the EV industry, such as batteries, semiconductors, controllers, etc.
- Lack of Associated Infrastructural Support: The lack of clarity over AC versus DC charging stations, grid stability and range anxiety (fear that batteries will soon run out of power) are other factors that hinder the growth of the EV industry.
- Lack of Availability of Materials For Domestic Production: Battery is single most important component of EVs. India does not have any known reserves of lithium and cobalt which are required for battery production. India is dependent on countries like Japan and China for the import of lithium-ion batteries.
- Lack of skilled workers: EVs have higher servicing costs and higher levels of skills is needed for servicing. India lacks dedicated training courses for such skill development.
Future Course of actions
- Government need to come up with stringent rules and regulations.
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has ordered a probe into the vehicles catching fire abruptly, similar efforts are required in a transparent manner.
- The government has allowed ETWs with speeds of less than 25 km/hour to be sold without any serious certification which is not a welcome move, there is need to have adequate security checks in place.
- The Centre for Fire Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES) should carry out investigations appropriately.
- There are various debates regarding whether battery swapping would be a better solution for electric scooters in India.
- As of now when a user’s vehicle battery is discharged completely or about to be discharged, The third-party provider swaps it out with a fully-charged battery at a battery-swapping station.
- The advantage of swapping is that there is always an extra battery giving sufficient time to charge the batteries.
- So, in this regard the government needs to take appropriate measures considering the interests of all the stakeholders and obviously the safety factor should be the top priority of the government.
- Battery Management system
- EV Infrastructure
- Li ion batteries and their applications
Q. The Indian EV industry can prove to be a boon to sustain India’s commitment towards the Paris Climate change agreement. However, there are a plethora of issues that have plagued the EV industry. Discuss the challenges and issues faced by EVs in India and also suggest a suitable way forward.