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Why are electric vehicles catching fire?

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: Developments in Science and Technology.

 

Context:

The Union Government has constituted an expert panel to probe the recent series of battery explosions in electric vehicles (EVs).

 

Reasons for the recent increase in demand for electric vehicles:

  • Concern over climate change.
  • Cost of Li-ion (Lithium-ion) battery technology has decreased.
  • Governments providing incentives to usher in the transition and private industry ramping up plans for capturing the market.
  • Vehicle companies, battery manufacturers, and material suppliers vying with each other for market share.

 

Concerns:

Hurrying the development of this complex technology without careful safeguards can lead to increasing safety incidents, as evidenced recently on Indian roads.

Current Affairs

 

Why do these batteries catch fire?

  • Batteries do store energy in a small package and if the energy is released in an uncontrolled fashion, the thermal event can be significant.
  • Battery fires, like other fires, occur due to the convergence of three parts of the “fire triangle”: heat, oxygen, and fuel. If an adverse event such as a short circuit occurs in the battery, the internal temperature can raise as the anode and cathode release their energy through the short.

Current Affairs

How to prevent it?

  1. Safety is a must and is an important consideration that battery and vehicle manufacturers can design for at multiple levels from the choice of battery material to designs at the cell, pack, and vehicle level.
  2. Preventing fires requires breaking the fire triangle. Battery cathodes are a leading cause of the heat release. Some cathodes, such as ones with lower nickel content or moving to iron phosphate, can increase safety.
  3. Tightly controlled manufacturing (Like adding Ceramic layer) will prevent accidental shorts in the cells, eliminating a leading cause of fires.
  4. Protecting the cell with robust thermal management is critical, especially in India where ambient temperatures are high.
  5. Battery packs need to be protected from external penetration.

 

Various measures undertaken by the Centre and States include:

PLI Scheme For Auto Sector: In September 2021 this year, the Union Cabinet approved a Rs 26,058 crore production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to accelerate domestic manufacturing of electric and fuel cell vehicles and drones in India.

FAME II Amendment: Under FAME-II (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles-II) scheme, the government significantly reduced the price gap between petrol-powered two-wheelers and electric ones by increasing the subsidy rate for electric two-wheelers.

Scrappage Policy: In August this year, the government launched the Vehicle Scrappage Policy virtually at the Gujarat Investor Summit. The policy aims to phase out unfit and polluting vehicles in an environment-friendly manner.

Along with the Centre, state governments are also leaving no stone unturned to promote faster adoption of EVs in India. To increase penetration and adoption of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), governments of around 20 states in India, including Delhi, Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have already come up with either a draft or final state level EV policies.

 

Challenges ahead:

  1. The Indian electric vehicle (EV) market currently has one of the lowest penetration rates in the world.
  2. Capital costs are high and the payoff is uncertain.
  3. Local production of inputs for EVs is at just about 35% of total input production.
  4. The production will be severely affected in terms of production costs.
  5. An uncertain policy environment and the lack of supporting infrastructure are major roadblocks.

 

Need of the hour:

  • Need to shift the focus from subsidizing vehicles to subsidizing batteries because batteries make up 50% of EV costs.
  • Increasing focus on incentivizing electric two-wheelers because two-wheelers account for 76% of the vehicles in the country and consume most of the fuel.

A wide network of charging stations is imminent for attracting investment.

  • Workplaces in tech parks, Public bus depots, and Multiplexes are the potential places where charging points could be installed. In Bangalore, some malls have charging points in parking lots.
  • Corporates could invest in charging stations as Corporate Social Responsibility compliances.
  • Acquiring lithium fields in Bolivia, Australia, and Chile could become as important as buying oil fields as India needs raw material to make batteries for electric vehicles.

 

 

Insta Curious:

Which states in India have adopted Electric Vehicle Policies? Reference: Read this.

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Electric Vehicle Policy in India.
  2. Similar policies by States.
  3. FAME Scheme.
  4. Fame Scheme Phase 1 vs Phase 2.

Mains Link:

Discuss the challenges associated Electric Vehicle Policies in India.

Sources: the Hindu.