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Electric vehicle battery makers likely to get more time to meet safety norms

Battery manufacturers may get an extension of 4 to 8 months to meet the additional safety requirements that the government has brought in after several incidents of electric vehicles catching Fire, 2 people in the know said. 

The deadline for adopting the new and more stringent safety standards currently is October 1. Battery makers and manufacturers of electric vehicles have been lobbying with the government to provide them more time to comply with the new regulations, saying that they got only four weeks to implement those since the notification came only this month. After several rounds of deliberations among the government, automakers and battery manufacturers, “it is decided in principle to extend the deadline”, said a person close to the development. 

The industry has been seeking time till March 31, 2023 to incorporate the changes as per the AIS-156 Rev-2 requirement and till August 31, 2023 to complete the re-homologation of the battery packs. 

But their demand for phase-wise implementation may not be met, the people said, as the authorities want them to adopt the changes much ahead of the summer months. High atmospheric temperature is seen as one of the reasons for batteries in electric vehicles getting overheated and catching 8re.  Electric vehicle manufacturers such as Hero Electric, Tata Motors, Kinetic Green Energy & Power Solutions and several battery companies said they needed adequate time to implement the changes. Given the scope of amendments proposed, battery packs would be required to undergo significant re-design, re-engineering, validation and testing, according to them. 

“The new standards will require redesign of the battery packs, BMS (battery management systems), as wells as development of new tooling for the aluminium casing and new capital equipment,” said Anand Kabra, managing director of Battrixx, a battery pack supplier for electric two-wheelers. 

Given that the battery pack size may change to meet the new guidelines of, vehicle makers would also be required to change the design and tooling for their vehicles, said Kinetic Green Chief Executive Sulajja Firodia Motwani. 

The new battery packs would also be required to be submitted for re certification to agencies such as the Automotive Research Association of India and International Centre for Automotive Technology. These processes will take time and hasty implementation of the standards may destabilise the nascent electric vehicle industry, said Sohinder Gill, chief executive of Hero Electric and director-general of the Society of Electric Vehicle Manufacturers. 

The notification on the new standards, with the effective date of October 1, came on September 3. That left the manufacturers with four weeks to implement all of the changes, including conducting thermal propagation tests on the battery packs and providing 5 cycles of data to the testing agencies, according to industry insiders.  Further, most of the equipment is imported, which would also mean that they would take about six to eight weeks to be procured and then have them commissioned, they said. 

It is preferred that this is done on a sampling basis as otherwise the infrastructure required would be bigger than the battery assembly line itself, according to the manufacturers. 

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‘Illegally-run’ showroom, flouting safety norms — what led to Secunderabad fire that killed 8

The fire emanated from the e-bike showroom and quickly leapt up to its upper floors where a hotel is located. According to police, the showroom was being run illegally.

Eight people were killed and 10 injured after a fire broke out at an ‘illegally-run’ electric scooter showroom in Secunderabad Monday night. The blaze emanated from the showroom — named Gemopai Electric Scooters — situated in the building’s cellar and quickly leapt up to its upper floors where a hotel called Ruby Luxury Hotel is located.

According to police, the electric scooter showroom was being run illegally. The incident took place around 9.35 pm Monday.

A case has been registered against the owners — Rajender Singh Bugga, Sumeet Singh and brothers — under IPC section 304 (causing death by negligence), 337 (whoever causes hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life, or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment) and others. All accused are absconding.

“There were about 38 scooters in the showroom and we’re still unsure if they were on charge. We also recovered burnt gas cylinders from the hotel. There could have been some leakage there. The fire started from the cellar of the building and spread to other floors of the hotel,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Mahankali Division, B. Ramesh told ThePrint.

The reason for the fire is being ascertained but a preliminary investigative note, accessed by ThePrint, shows that the police suspect an explosion from either an e-bike or a generator placed in the showroom that may have caused the fire.

“Two hotel guests, some hotel staff and four others escaped from the building’s fifth floor terrace to the adjacent Yatri Hotel. The fire broke out following an explosion in the electric bike showroom,” the note read. Police sources told ThePrint that a significant number of deaths could be due to asphyxiation.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office Tuesday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh to families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the injured. The Telangana government also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3 lakh to the victims’ families.

Fire safety norms violated

The hotel had 28 rooms and 25 people were staying at the time the fire broke out. The victims hailed from Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada, Chennai, Delhi and Cuttack.

“The staircase of the hotel is connected from the ground floor to the top floor. The smoke spread throughout the building. On the first and second floor, people seemed to be sleeping and when they came to the corridor, it would have been full of smoke, leading to breathlessness and suffocation,” Hyderabad Police Commissioner CV Anand told the media.

The Ruby Hotel is located at one of the busiest areas in Secunderabad. The building is packed between other structures on the main road. When ThePrint visited the area, around five burnt gas cylinders were kept outside the building and all that was left in the cellar were charred remains of the electric scooters.

Sources from the Telangana State Disaster Response and Fire Services told ThePrint that the building, with a height of 17.5 meters, should have had multiple exits. But it has only one, indicating that the builders had violated fire safety norms.

Around 50 fire department personnel were involved in the rescue operation, along with a few local people, the police said.

‘When I first saw smoke emanating from the building, I thought it was a minor fire and fire services must be there. But then, we heard screams from the window. Someone saying ‘bachao’ (help) and we saw a family of four screaming from a window. We broke the windows, gathered ladders and pulled people from the first floor down,” Surya Kiran, a local resident who helped in rescue operations, told media.

Kiran added, “We then went to the third floor and it was full of thick black smoke. We broke open the doors to find three people unconscious. We tried dragging them, but they were heavy and by then we were getting affected too. But we managed to rescue them with the help of police.”