The Indian Government is pushing for its citizens to buy electric vehicles instead of conventional fuel-run vehicles. However, the leading cause for concern among Indian buyers is fire. We have heard and read about many instances of electric cars catching fire in India. Some of them include the explosion of two Tesla models in Hongkong and Shanghai, a Tesla model explosion in Moscow, and a Hyundai explosion in Montreal, Canada. These events raise the question: are electric vehicles safe in India? Indian buyers are now fearful of purchasing electric vehicles.
You might have imagined that cars with internal combustion would be at a higher risk of catching fire. This is not true. Electric vehicles pose just as much risk as diesel or petrol vehicles. Electric cars need special precautions in their manufacturing design due to their high voltage electrical systems. The structure and functioning of an electric vehicle must ensure that occupants are not placed at risk in the event of an incident occurring.
We must remember that when manufacturing electric vehicles, manufacturers have developed them with the same design and high standards as their diesel and gasoline counterparts. In the event of an accident, large crumple zones, a strong design structure, and multiple airbags ensure that the vehicle’s occupants are placed at the highest level of safety. Electric vehicles weigh more than conventional ones due to the increased mass of their battery packs. Also, if in a collision, they need to be able to absorb the increased energy created. Due to these factors, electric vehicle manufacturers work even harder to achieve a high safety standard.
Why Are EVs Not Safe in India?
Electric vehicles typically catch fire due to a short circuit. A short circuit within one or more cells of a battery generates heat. The heat ignites the chemicals in the lithium-ion battery, causing the fire to spread slowly and steadily throughout the internal structure of the vehicle. Electric vehicles are even more dangerous to operate in India due to our varied climatic conditions. Let’s see what experts have to say on the question are electric vehicles safe in India?
According to experts, high heat and humidity characterise India’s climatic conditions. Temperatures across the country vary throughout the year. Unfortunately, lithium-ion batteries tend to explode when they get overheated or when we use the wrong charger or current to charge them. This makes it essential for manufacturers to thoroughly and aggressively test electric vehicle batteries to prevent any potential problems.
Punctures in battery casings also pose a severe hazard. The flammable liquid in lithium batteries makes electric vehicles more prone to fire events.
If an internal combustion engine catches fire, we can easily control it once all of the fuel is burned up. However, this is not the case with electric vehicles. Even if we manage to stop a fire in an electric car, the lithium batteries still contain energy. This energy can repeatedly cause the re-ignition of the battery.
We can’t even use water to douse a fire in electric vehicles. Using water to control the fire can risk a short circuit, which may lead to more sparking. Manufacturers recommend only the use of foam or a fire extinguisher in the event of accidents.
However, even after everything mentioned above, industry experts believe that electric vehicles are as safe as conventional vehicles. They say that parts of electric cars have lesser friction than gasoline vehicles. Incidences of issues with electric vehicles are far lesser than with gasoline or diesel vehicles. A Fatality Analysis Report found that only 2.6% of electric vehicles have caught fire so far compared to 4.4% of internal combustion engine vehicles. Industry experts ensure that electric vehicles meet the same safety standards and go through conventional vehicles’ same rigorous testing routines.
Electric vehicles have safety systems of the highest standards. In the case of an accident or crash event, the safety system automatically isolates the battery. There are sensors in place in the vehicle’s internal structure. As soon as the sensors detect a crash or collision, they sever the voltage cables and disconnect all power flow within milliseconds of the collision.
Most electric vehicle manufacturers today are switching to the liquid cooling technology. The technology keeps the battery within a safe range of temperatures while the vehicle is in motion. The companies leading in electric automobile production, such as Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and BMW, have invested heavily in developing solid-state battery technology. They believe this technology will result in safer batteries.
Electric vehicles have a better centre of gravity since their batteries are on the floor. Therefore, if involved in a crash, the car is less likely to roll over than other conventional cars. Electric vehicles contain no flammable fuel. Diesel or gasoline leaking out of a traditional car can cause it to catch fire. However, the well-encapsulated batteries in an electric car allow ample time for the occupants to evacuate.
To ensure that the electric vehicle is safe for operation, it must undergo regular maintenance checks. The battery, the electric components, and the electric motor require periodic maintenance for smooth functioning. Ignoring maintenance checks can compromise the safety of the occupants.
Even though electric cars and vehicles have high safety standards, they still need improvements. The lithium-ion batteries are still prone to sparking. The batteries need technological advancements to ensure that they are at zero risk of catching fire. Also, manufacturers and automakers need to carry out extensive testing of electric vehicles in India. As mentioned before, India has high humidity, and the climate varies throughout the country. Automakers should carry out testing in each region and climatic condition to ensure that the batteries are safe in those types of environments. Once the manufacturers can guarantee that the batteries have a zero chance of catching fire in any given environment, India can witness a massive jump in ownership of electric vehicles. We all want to help the environment by reducing emissions from conventional vehicles. Still, new advancements in automobiles, such as the electric car, must guarantee us the highest level of safety. With technological improvement, we can be sure to see more electric vehicles on the roads in the coming years. We will finally have a positive answer to the question: are electric vehicles safe in India?
Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.