07 Nov Need for Enhancing Fire Safety Standards for Electric Vehicles in India
With the growth of Electric Vehicle industry in India, there has also been an increase in fire incidents. There is an urgent need to fortify our fire safety standards to counter the impact of such fires.
Over the past decade, India has witnessed significant growth in the electric vehicle industry, with major automotive manufacturers launching a range of electric vehicles (EVs), from two-wheelers and three-wheelers to passenger cars and commercial ones.
From July 2021 to June 2022, around 0.6 Mn. electric vehicles valued at about USD 1.3 Bn. were sold in India. It is expected that the number of vehicles sold may cross 8 Mn. per year by 2027, expanding at a Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of ~68% during the 2023-2027 period. The major growth drivers can be attributed to favorable government policies and subsidies, improved awareness about air quality and environmental issues and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for electric vehicles compared to Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs).
However, while the electric vehicle industry’s growth is promising, it brings with it a set of unique fire safety challenges. By ensuring the strict implementation of strong fire safety standards which include the use of Flame Retardants, substances which play an essential role in preventing and slowing down ignition, the painful consequences of electric vehicles’ fire accidents within the country can be adequately tackled.
Incidents of Electric Vehicle Fires in India
There have been multiple fire incidents in electric vehicles in India in the past couple of years, with many of them gaining extensive coverage among Indian social media and news channels and resulting in the government and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) taking prompt action. These occurrences are mainly linked to the substantial energy concentration found in electric vehicle battery packs, which efficiently store a significant amount of energy within a limited area. When the battery pack sustains damage, it can initiate an internal short circuit that sets off a sequence of events referred to as thermal runaway. In this sequence, the battery produces more heat than it can effectively disperse, ultimately resulting in a fire.
Multiple cases of electric vehicle fires have been reported since 2019. These fire incidents have sometimes even proven to be fatal in nature, with short-circuits in the battery being attributed as their main cause in most. Several companies had to recall their vehicles after these incidents came to light. Most recently, in October, 2023, an electric car burst into flames in Bangalore, creating a horrifying scene which further highlighted the pressing need for better safety measures and stringent flame-retardant standards in the automotive industry.
Opportunities to improve Fire Safety
Considering the nature of the fires, vehicles should be equipped with fire-resistant materials to prevent or delay the spread of fire, giving occupants crucial extra moments to evacuate safely. Beyond vehicle occupants, these fires pose significant risks to pedestrians, nearby buildings, and the environment. Flame retardant standards can help mitigate these risks by reducing the intensity and spread of fires.
Flame retardants are very effective in achieving this mandate. Their use in critical components of electric vehicles, such as batteries, charging apparatus, electric motors, and electronics, plays a crucial role in preventing fires and ensuring safety, emphasizing the need for their incorporation and enforcement in Indian standards for overall vehicle safety. This becomes further evident when looking at the following factors:
- High Voltage and Energy Density: Electric vehicles operate at higher voltages than conventional vehicles, which increases the potential severity of electrical fires. Additionally, lithium-ion batteries store a significant amount of energy, making them more challenging to manage in the event of a fire.
- Battery Compartment Design: Properly designed battery compartments with flame-retardant materials are essential to contain and mitigate the effects of a battery fire.
- Charging Infrastructure Safety: Flame retardant standards should also extend to charging infrastructure to prevent accidents during charging.
The electric vehicle industry in India is poised for exponential growth, offering a promising solution to the country’s environmental and energy challenges. However, ensuring the safety of electric vehicles and their users is paramount. As the industry matures, collaboration among government agencies, manufacturers, and the public will be vital in establishing and adhering to these safety standards, fostering trust and confidence in electric mobility among Indian consumers.
Manufacturers should invest in research and development to innovate and develop new fire-resistant materials and technologies. Consumers must be educated on the importance of flame-retardant standards and encouraged to prioritize safety when purchasing vehicles. They should demand transparency from manufacturers about the fire safety features in their cars.
Flame retardant standards are essential to manage the unique fire risks associated with electric vehicles. To ensure the safety of electric vehicles and their users, the Indian automotive industry must establish comprehensive flame-retardant standards. These standards should encompass battery technology, vehicle design, charging infrastructure, and fire safety protocols. By prioritizing and rigorously implementing flame-retardant standards in the electric vehicle industry, India can not only pave the way for sustainable transportation but also ensure the safety and well- being of its citizens, making electric mobility a reliable and secure choice for the future.
 Electric Vehicles Market in India 2022-2027, Netscribes
 The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is the rate of return (RoR) that would be required for an investment to grow from its beginning balance to its ending balance, assuming the profits were reinvested at the end of each period of the investment’s life span.