Real world testing key for EV safety

by Shahkar Abidi 26 Apr 2022


With several cases of electric two-wheelers catching fire in recent weeks making national headlines, some of EV industry's finest minds who participated at Autocar Professional's two-wheeler EV forum said real-world testing of components remains paramount and that the industry needs to do a lot more as part of the learning graph. 

Dr Prakash AK, Head (R&D) at Varroc kickstarted the conversation declaring that the recent reported incidents of fire in EV is not only a matter of concern for the companies whose products caught fire but of EV industry as a whole. He added that even though India's EV industry may still  be relatively new, there are well-defined standard operating procedures (SOP) in different countries which can be adopted albeit by sharpening it through localisation to meet the needs of the domestic market. 

"India is the largest two-wheeler manufacturer globally and I am confident that the country can scale up in the EV sector too by localising battery chemistry," avers Dr Prakash whose company  Varroc, currently is India’s second largest two-wheeler auto component supplier and the sixth largest exterior auto lighting supplier in the world.  He noted that though the time frame of testing and validation for different components may vary, it is likely to take even longer than three months in case of new products such as the Battery Management System. 

Even as the Government has taken a stringent view of the fires and has asked EV manufacturers to recall the faulty vehicles, the panelists were almost unanimous in their views that though strict action should be taken against the erring manufacturers, the development should in no way become an excuse for restricting the innovation of the industry. The panelist further clarified that it's not just in the case of India, but even relatively more mature automotive markets such as those of Europe and China too have in the past witnessed similar incidents, and learnt their lessons from it. They further pointed out that there being practically no single correct way of developing battery chemistry, it prompts OEMs to experiment and make choices with regard to safety, performance and costs. 

No shortcuts
Brieux Boisdequin, Vice President, Automotive & Materials, BASF India provided a perspective from a chemical manufacturer when he noted that going through the test cycles and scaling up to mass production levels takes time. He was categorical that this cannot be compressed into a few months. " Here we are not talking about the breakdown of a vehicle but of a fire.”

"Consequently, there is no shortcut to the testing," Boisdequin emphasised. Germany -based BASF, which gets counted amongst the biggest chemical suppliers to the global automotive industry,  contributes to the dynamic market of electric and hybrid vehicles.  The company also invests in its production of cathode active materials and has expanded its range of engineering plastics and polyurethane systems, functional coatings as well as fuels and lubricants.

Dr Akshay Singhal, Founder & CEO, Log9 Materials opined that the trigger for a fire in an EV two-wheeler need not necessarily be from the battery but be the result of other connected features as well. Expressing his apprehensions over all the negative publicity in EV industry on account of vehicle fire, Singhal contended that the fire incidents being reported these days should not become a deterrent for EV industry's growth but instead should be a starting point for increasing the competencies, local engineering and stringent testing standards.

The localisation imperative
Singhal's Log9 which is an indigenous deep-tech and advanced battery-tech startup offers  batteries that can be charged 9x faster and last as much, and are safe. It claims to be the only Indian company today that holds in-house competencies ranging from electrode materials to cell fabrication to battery packs. To further its premise around made-in-India, Log9 which is funded by  the likes of leading VCs like Sequoia and Exfinity Ventures and strategic investors such as Amara Raja Batteries and Petronas (Malaysia) is also pushing big time in R&D activities including that of  aluminum fuel cells that can power long-haul commercial vehicles of the future. 

Talking about the need for collaborations, Singhal remains of the firm belief that though tie-ups and JVs remain important, the ultimate aim should be of technology transfer and localisation or else the EV industry too may end up going the ICE way when foreign partners mostly kept the technical know-how to themselves, leaving India dependent upon them for decades. "If we allow this to happen, then we will become dependent upon others for the next 40-50 years," Singhal added, emphasising that if we stress localisation as a policy then it may help us in achieving long term success.

Kapil Shelke, Founder & CEO, Tork Motors said companies in the EV industry can collaborate and find ways to give out the best possible product at a given price point, and then probably look for exports. "The market is just exploding with each passing month," said Shelke referring to the fast packing of demand. Pune-headquartered Tork Motors, which was among the first Indian startups to work on electric motorcycles finally launched its e-motorcycle codenamed T6X as ‘Kratos' in January this year after undertaking  extensive research and development for over six years. The T6X was first unveiled in 2016. 

The feature was published in Autocar Professional's  May 1, 2022 issue.