On Saturday, an Ola S1 pro scooter on fire emerged from the Lohegaon region of Pune, potentially reigniting concerns about the safety of electric cars.
The scooter is shown sitting on the curbside of a busy business area in the 31-second film, entirely engulfed in flames, probably due to a thermal runway. Thermal runaway is an uncontrollable exothermic process that can occur within a damaged or short-circuited lithium-ion battery. It is very difficult to extinguish a lithium ion battery after it has caught fire. When it comes into contact with water, it emits hydrogen gas and lithium-hydroxide. Because of its great flammability, hydrogen gas is a considerable impediment.
We are aware of an incident in Pune involving one of our scooters and are investigating to determine the underlying cause. We will provide further details in the coming days, the firm said in a statement to ETAuto. We are in continual communication with the consumer, who is completely protected. Vehicle safety is of the utmost concern to Ola, and we are dedicated to maintaining the highest quality standards in our goods. We take this situation seriously and will take necessary measures and provide further information in the coming days.
Most battery fires are caused by poor quality lithium ion cells or an ineffective battery management system. Companies in India get lithium ion cells from vendors in South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Japan since India does not produce its own lithium ion cell, which is a fundamental component in a lithium ion battery. LG Chem in Korea is Ola's cell supplier.
There are several battery chemistries available on the market, with two important ones for EVs being NMC and LFP. NMC has a higher energy density than LFP but is deemed less stable. LFP batteries have a substantially higher thermal runaway threshold of 270 degrees Celsius than NMC batteries, which has a barrier of 150 degrees. Ola is powered by a high voltage NMC battery with a capacity of 3.97 kilowatt hours.
This is not the first time an incendiary device has caught fire in India. Two Pure EV scooters caught fire in September of last year, followed by another from Okinawa in October. Another scooter from Manesar-based HCD India caught fire while being charged in December, resulting in the unfortunate death of a 60-year-old man. Nonetheless, considering Ola's market status as the best-funded company in the business, which is at the vanguard of trying to overhaul India's EV market, this is one of the most high-profile situations.
This is very shocking. We had heard rumours that Ola was speeding through some product development standards, but we never imagined they would be that careless with batteries, said an industry insider. This has the potential to be extremely detrimental to the industry as a whole. Ola would have to respond to a slew of questions.
The Ola electric tale in India has been a roller coaster ride in and of itself, with not everything going as planned. To begin, the business struggled to ramp up capacity at its massive 10 million unit future facility in Tamil Nadu. As a result, supplies to clients were months delayed. Customers in the initial batch also received the scooter without several of the advertised capabilities, such as hill-hold and cruise control functions, as well as voice command.
In February of this year, one client, Malay Mohapatra, had a strange failure in which his bike went into reverse and accelerated at 102 kph.
What causes batteries to catch fire?
It is critical to comprehend why lithium ion batteries catch fire. Li-ion batteries are ubiquitous nowadays, found in smartphones and laptops, power banks and tablets, but the ones used in EVs are fundamentally different. For starters, EV batteries can store up to three times the amount of energy as laptops or any other household equipment. They are subjected to a broad range of damage, including exposure to temperature extremes, dust and humidity, vibration caused by terrain, water, and rapid rates of charge and discharge.
To enhance a vehicle's operating range, high voltage is required, which necessitates lengthy rows of cells and large energy storage. Batteries containing flammable electrolytes are especially dangerous in enclosed garage areas of private households and commercial companies, where automobiles may be charged.
In a sealed container, batteries often include both an oxidizer (cathode) and fuel (anode as well as electrolyte). Because the combination of fuel and oxidizer is seldom done owing to the risk of explosion, the state of charge (SOC) is an essential variable. Lower SOCs diminish the cathode oxidising and anode reducing potential. During normal operation, the fuel and oxidizer electrochemically transform the stored energy (i.e., chemical to electrical energy conversion with minimal heat and negligible gas production). However, if the electrode materials in an electrochemical cell begin to react chemically, the fuel and oxidizer transform the chemical energy immediately into heat and gas. This is the start of a potential fire danger issue. Because of the close proximity of the fuel and oxidizer, this chemical reaction will very certainly continue to completion, resulting in a thermal runaway. Once a thermal runaway has commenced, it is difficult to quench or halt it. Prevention is the greatest cure here, as it is everywhere else.
The adoption of novel electrode materials to meet the demands of even larger energy content and higher voltage operation complicates this potentially flammable combination. Electrode materials are among the most reactive materials known, and they have a significant impact on the safety and abuse tolerance of the cell and battery pack. The selection of cathode is critical. Today's material of choice contains lithium as well as one or more additional elements such as cobalt, nickel, manganese, or aluminium. Each has distinct properties based on the type and ratio of metals—Ni(Nickel) has large capacity, manganese and cobalt have excellent safety, and aluminium enhances battery power.
The appearance of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) is significant. They are less expensive, do not include nickel or cobalt, and are more stable and safe. On the other hand, because they are less dense in energy, manufacturers seeking greater range and performance continue to favour NMC batteries. Ola does as well.
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