E-Scooter Fires in India Set off Security Considerations, in Setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Push



A spate of electrical scooters catching hearth in India, together with one made by SoftBank-backed Ola Electrical, is sparking security issues amongst some consumers, in an early setback for a nascent sector Prime Minister Narendra Modi is bullish about.

India desires electrical scooters and motorbikes to make up 80 p.c of whole two-wheeler gross sales by 2030, from about 2 p.c as we speak, and Modi’s administration is providing firms billions of {dollars} in incentives to domestically manufacture electrical autos (EVs.)

Gross sales of electrical scooters greater than doubled this 12 months, however a minimum of for some potential consumers, the fires are trigger to assume twice.

On Saturday, a video of an Ola e-scooter engulfed in flames went viral on-line, triggering a uncommon authorities probe. A scooter from startup Pure EV additionally caught ablaze and a burning Okinawa Autotech Pvt bike killed two individuals. The businesses say they’re investigating the incidents.

Three potential consumers advised Reuters they have been deferring buy plans, and dozens posted issues on social media this week with a number of saying they have been reconsidering whether or not it was the fitting time to go electrical.

“I had carried out loads of analysis however I’m now reconsidering the choice. I’ll purchase a daily bike,” mentioned Praharsh Mahadevia, 28, an engineer from the western metropolis of Ahmedabad.

Nayeem Quadri, an Indian journalist, can also be having “second ideas as a result of these repeated cases of fires,” he mentioned.

The electrical mobility push is important for Modi’s local weather change and carbon discount objectives.

Following the Ola incident, Modi’s authorities advised lawmakers within the Indian parliament it’ll take “acceptable motion” towards the producers as soon as the investigations are full.

Some in authorities circles say globally autos have been recalled by automakers in instances of fires.

“This can be a dawn sector and something damaging is sure to have a detrimental affect,” mentioned Randheer Singh, director for electrical mobility at authorities think-tank Niti Aayog.

“How the state of affairs is tackled will decide how shopper religion and confidence is maintained,” he mentioned.

Up in flames

Video footage of the Ola hearth confirmed one in all its widespread black-coloured S1 Professional scooters emitting smoke earlier than shortly being engulfed in hearth on a busy avenue within the western metropolis of Pune.

The Okinawa Autotech incident was extra lethal. The corporate mentioned a person and his daughter died when their e-bike “went up in flames”. It cited the police assertion which mentioned the possible trigger was {an electrical} brief circuit whereas charging.

Jasmeet Khurana, who leads the World Financial Discussion board’s initiative on electrical mobility in India and rising markets, mentioned consumers could forgive one-off incidents given the recognition of the cheap-to-run bikes. However, he mentioned, firms should do extra to deal with the issues.

“The market will proceed to develop quickly however it may possibly develop sooner with out such incidents,” he mentioned.

Though most individuals nonetheless use petrol-guzzling motorbikes to journey on crowded Indian roads, E-scooter gross sales are main India’s clear mobility revolution.

Annual gross sales are anticipated to cross 1 million items by March 2023, from 1,50,000 a 12 months in the past, business knowledge confirmed. Ola Electrical, valued at $5 billion (roughly Rs. 37976.8 crore), is making 1,000 scooters a day and has plans to fabricate electrical vehicles and battery cells domestically.

Tarun Mehta, chief govt of Tiger International-backed e-scooter maker, Ather Power, advised Reuters that regardless of the fires, his gross sales had been unaffected.

“There isn’t a query of demand derailing. Whereas the incidents are unlucky, we won’t deny the truth that EVs are right here to remain and the shift to electrical has begun,” he mentioned.

© Thomson Reuters 2022