Two incidents in quick succession of electric scooters catching fire has promted the Centre to order an investigation into the leading companies — Ola Electric and Okinawa Autotech — the manufacturers of the vehicles.
In the first incident, an e-bike made by Okinawa went up in flames due to an electrical short circuit mishap in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, which eventually led to the two deaths on Friday, and the next morning, on Saturday, Ola’s S1 Pro (flagship model) caught fire in the busy Lohegaon area of Pune, Maharashtra.
“We have asked an independent expert to probe the actual circumstances. These could be internal and external — whether the fire incident was due to the vehicle design operation or the external environment which triggered the fire,” Giridhar Aramane, Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), told BusinessLine.
He said if the vehicles’ designs were approved and tested and there is no room for speculation or loopholes. The probe teams would be visiting Pune and Bengaluru (Ola headquarters) for the investigation and also Vellore for the Okinawa incident.
Though these two incidents are not the first to hit headlines, Aramane said the investigation is confined to Ola and Okinawa as they “are the recent cases, so we will investigate the incidents”. Okinawa had an earlier (October 2021) incident of a scooter catching fire while on charge in a garage.
In December last year, two scooters from Pure EV also caught fire, and another scooter from Manesar-based HCD India caught fire while being charged, leading to the death of a 60-year-old man.
Asked about the time frame for the investigation for the latest incidents, Aramane said that since it’s a scientific thing, it may take long, “but one month will be adequate”.
He added that there are fire incidents in petrol and CNG also and government is concerned about all such incidents. “There are fire incidents in big vehicles including Petrol and CNG — we are concerned about everything, not only this...We have already asked the independent expert to go and check the actual causes of these fires, and if there is any problem, we will ensure that they are taken care of,” he added. However, he did not comment on what actions can be taken if the companies are at fault.
‘Lot of politics’
According to sources, there is a lot of politics in the electric vehicle (EV) battery space right now, the battery swapping group versus the fixed battery group, and the petrol group versus EV group...there is a lot of politics.
Sources in the government also said that according to the Motor Vehicles Act, certain vehicles can be discontinued (manufacturer to stop production) if it is found that hazardous an incident has happened due to negligence in manufacturing.
Meanwhile, when asked about the latest development (investigation by government), both Okinawa and Ola declined to comment.