Is it really safe to buy electric scooters in India?

The fight for the pole position is leading to almost unrealistic delivery timelines. Manufacturers are also trying to cut through competition by offering 'segment-first' features

OLA electric scooters
The Ola S1 accident happened in Pune, Maharashtra

The expansion of the EV segment in India is a promising scenario. However, just like many other industries, it has its own challenges and teething issues. One such issue, which is a fatal one too, is a fire hazard. We are no strangers to electric vehicles catching fire. However, two recent incidents have brought back focus to the less glamorous side of the EV revolution, safety. 

In one incident, Ola Electric’s Ola S1 electric scooter caught fire while it was parked on the roadside. The video of the fire went viral leading to increased scrutiny on the company. In another incident, a father and daughter lost their lives due to a fire caused by either an Okinawa Autotech EV or the charging apparatus. The investigation of this case is still ongoing.

Competition has been raising in the EV segment, especially in the two-wheeler category. Electric scooters are growing in popularity, thanks to growing fuel prices and even govt subsidies, both on the state and center levels. The fight for the pole position is leading to almost unrealistic delivery timelines. Manufacturers are also trying to cut through competition by offering “segment-first” features. These factors go on to impact other important aspects of the vehicle, like quality and safety. 

Another aspect that has been highlighted is the unique climate and use case of EVs in India when compared to other markets. The increasing heat in the subcontinent will be a testing period for some of the new EV manufacturers in India.

Here’s what some of the EV industry players in India think about the latest fire incidents:

Maxson Lewis, MD, and CEO, of Magenta, said, “Electric Vehicles are absolutely safe pieces of technology. Laptops and mobile phones etc are…for a lack of a better word, non-wheeled versions of the same technology, and millions of them are in use. However, you cannot copy-paste international solutions into India for 4 major reasons: Heat, Humidity, Harmonics, and Humans.”

Providing his opinion on the incidents, Lewis said, “The recent mishaps have two possible technical reasons and one socio-economic reason 1. In complete testing on the battery side 2. Wrong charging equipment 3. Overall, it is the ‘get to market fast and get to market cheap’ attitude which is causing companies to take shortcuts on safety and field testing.”

Mayank Jain, Director, Crayon Motors, said, “EVs are, in essence, safer than ICE. We are witnessing massive growth, any and all mishaps for EVs are under the lense. That being said, safety is paramount and needs to be the first and foremost priority. I feel there is a lot more scope for improvement in the technology. Most of these cases would be the result of issues with batteries, either their thermal management or cell choice among others issues. Cognizance must be taken. Technology needs to be designed and further improved to tackle the Indian weather and use conditions.”

Companies do try to take certain measures to avert such scary situations. Magenta EV claims that safety is its foremost priority considering that it is backed by HPCL. Crayon Motors claims that they are working with some Indian battery manufacturers to tackle this issue. They have also started a customer education campaign for better battery care and improved battery life.


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