Why Ola decides to recall 1,441 units of S1

Ola Electric became the latest among electric scooter (e-scooter) makers to have started the exercise of recalling a specific batch of its model after a rap on the knuckles by the government.

Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari on Thursday advised electric vehicle (EV) companies to act responsibly by identifying and recalling defective batches without waiting for orders or guidelines from the ministry.

The Bengaluru-based start-up is conducting pre-emptive diagnostics and health check on 1,441 scooters, it said in a statement on Sunday.

The Bhavish Aggarwal-run firm is recalling the S1 Pro amid multiple issues facing its maiden model, including a fire incident on March 26.

Ola Electric is the third e-scooter manufacturer to recall its model after several fire incidents were reported across the country on lithium-ion-(Li-ion)-powered EVs.

Earlier this month, Gurugram-based Okinawa Autotech and Hyderabased-Power Using Renewable Energy (PURE) EV recalled 3,215 and 2,000 units of their Praise Pro, and ETrance Plus and EPluto 7G, respectively.

Most of the issues seen are when batteries are being charged, as a fully charged battery like a gas tank, is a powerhouse of energy.

By having the swapping stations that are removed from the home, garages and parking, reduces 90 per cent of the risk, says Chetan Maini, co-founder and chairman at SUN Mobility.

“Having said that the onus is pretty much on the battery and EV manufacturer as such incidents can still occur if the design, quality or manufacturing of the battery pack or charging system is compromised,” he said.

“Kumar had started charging the battery around 10 pm before going to sleep on Friday.

“The explosion took place at his home in Gulabi Thota around 3.30 am Saturday when the Boom Corbett 14 e-bike’s battery was charging.

“His family is in an intensive care unit. We have registered a case under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for death due to battery blast,” N V Suryanarayana, station house officer of Suryaraopet police station in Vijayawada, told Business Standard.

A statement from Coimbatore-based Boom Motors is awaited.

Earlier, 80-year-old B Ramaswamy died after the battery of his son’s PURE EV e-scooter exploded in their living room in the early hours on Wednesday.

The Nizamabad police registered a case against the vehicle manufacturer and the dealer who sold it.

Boom’s Corbett 14 is the first incident involving a manufacturer offering removable batteries.

It stokes further concerns on Li-ion-powered EVs.

The incident came to light a few days after the government think tank NITI Aayog released a draft policy on battery swapping.

The policy proposes setting up swapping stations for batteries to reduce the upfront cost of electric two- and three-wheelers.

Amid raging fire incidents, it proposes to enhance safety by assigning a unique identification number to swappable batteries at the manufacturing stage to help track and monitor them.

“Most of the issues seen are when batteries are being charged, as a fully charged battery like a gas tank, is a powerhouse of energy.

“By having the swapping stations that are removed from the home, garages and parking, reduces 90 per cent of the risk,” says Chetan Maini, co-founder and chairman at SUN Mobility.

Having said that the onus is pretty much on the battery and EV manufacturer as such incidents can still occur if the design, quality or manufacturing of the battery pack or charging system is compromised, he said.

According to Balraj Bhanot, former chairman, Central Motor Vehicle Regulations, the battery should be treated as an independent, important component of a vehicle and be brought under the mandatory marking scheme of the Bureau of Indian Standards, and strict evaluation norms be made applicable.

For this purpose, one has to quickly issue a quality control order.

The government should also introduce a mandatory recall system with radio frequency identification coding to track the lot.

If a fire accident takes place in a particular lot, the entire lot should be recalled with due compensation, suggests Bhanot.

“The government should rethink its policy of everybody becoming a battery manufacturer without requisite infrastructure (infra) just to take advantage of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of hybrid and Electric vehicles (or FAME) incentive.

“I doubt if there is any mechanism to check the infra set-up of a company for making batteries or if there is any minimum list of items/equipment prescribed for qualifications,” says Bhanot.

Meanwhile, Ola Electric, in a statement, said it is recalling some units of the S1 Pro, even as the company’s “internal investigation into the March 26 vehicle fire incident in Pune is ongoing and the preliminary assessment reveals that the thermal incident was likely an isolated one”.

As a “pre-emptive measure”, it would be conducting a detailed diagnostics and health check of the e-scooters in that specific batch and therefore, issuing a voluntary recall of 1,441 vehicles, it said.

These scooters will be inspected by Ola Electric’s service engineers and go through diagnostics across all battery, thermal, as well as safety systems, it said in a statement.

“We strongly support adopting a world-class EV safety policy and standards architecture in India to ensure high quality products which enhance customer confidence in furtherance of our commitment towards our customers’ safety and grow the nascent EV industry,” said Ola Electric.

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