Electric vehicle batteries: the hot topic that needs to be addressed

By: Sheetal Bahl, MD and partner at growX Ventures.

Sales of Electric Vehicles (EVs) have been on the rise over the past few years in India, driven by several new start-ups that have entered the industry with the launch of new products and sustained government pressure to create an enabling ecosystem. to the growth of electricity. mobility. Even existing auto majors have jumped into the fray and started releasing vehicles in the two- and four-wheel categories. Investments in this space – both from VCs (Venture Capitalists) and from the industry have increased dramatically over the past couple of years. The recent spate of battery fires, particularly in electric two-wheelers, however, has cast a shadow over this promising growth and undone some of the good achieved so far. If safety is not taken into account, customers will lose confidence in electric vehicles and a much-needed industry could suffer endless damage.

The underlying issue of these incidents is not a mystery. Years of lithium-ion battery research have made the root cause of battery fires pretty obvious: overuse of batteries without any safety cut-off points. Most fire cases can be attributed to over-charging/over-discharging of batteries and lack of thermal management in battery modules which leads to thermal runaway and eventually explosions and fires.

Thermal runaway begins with a particular cell or group of cells releasing tremendous energy from their structures. This can be due to a variety of reasons ranging from poor cell selection, mechanical failures, external/internal short circuits, overcharging or over-discharging, and lack of thermal management in the batteries, among others. The concept of thermal runaway is not new, nor is the fact that India’s climate is extreme with summer temperatures exceeding 45 degrees Celsius in many Indian cities. This simply highlights the status of unsafe products deployed in the market. New technologies like this, especially in the automotive industry, require research and development efforts followed by diligent testing and validation under representative conditions, which takes time. The incidents brought to light in the market are the result of companies cutting test and development time to rapidly deploy products.

The good news is that solutions to these problems already exist and several companies have successfully developed battery technology to address these issues from the design stage. These manufacturers have developed and deployed smart batteries with built-in thermal management systems that have been tested under conditions representative of India and have been certified to AIS-156, India’s current EV battery testing standard that is on par with those followed around the world.

It should also be noted that several international car brands, as well as domestic brands, are successfully selling their electric four-wheelers in the country without the kind of untoward incidents seen with two-wheelers, demonstrating that ‘With proper attention to research and development such incidents are entirely preventable.

The Indian government reacted quickly and ordered an investigation into these incidents, and several companies conducted large-scale recalls to address these issues and prevent further damage to life and property. The government is also working on the formulation of other standards to ensure that adequate attention to quality control is given by battery manufacturers.

For electric mobility to proliferate across the country, consumers need to feel safe using these vehicles. OEMs must ensure that only high quality batteries go into their products so that the safety of the general public is not compromised and the momentum of the transition to electric mobility is not hindered by such unfortunate incidents. .

Warning: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of Indian Express Group or its employees.

Jessica C. Bell