India Launches Probe After E-Scooter Fires

Indian regulators have said they plan to take action following the latest in a series of electric scooter fires in the country.

Announcing the unusual government probe, transport minister Nitin Gadkari told lawmakers in the Indian Parliament that the issue was “serious”.

“A total of four incidents of fire in two-wheeler EVs have been reported in the past one week and this is a very serious issue,” he said.

Gadkari added that the government would “take appropriate action” against those responsible.

Image credit: Ola

E-scooter fires

On Saturday, 26 March, a video of an Ola e-scooter erupting into flames spread rapidly online.

A scooter from startup Pure EV also caught fire and a fire from an Okinawa Autotech electric bike killed two people. The companies involved say they are investigating the issues.

The Ola fire affected a popular black-coloured S1 Pro scooter, which began emitting smoke before being engulfed in flames on a busy street in the western city of Pune.

Okinawa Autotech said a man and his daughter died when their e-bike “went up in flames”. The company cited a police report saying the fire was probably caused by an electrical short circuit while charging.

The Indian government is pushing electric vehicles as a major growth sector, and wants electric scooters and motorbikes to make up 80 percent of all two-wheeler sales by 2030, up from about 2 percent today.

Growth sector

The administration is offering billions of dollars in incentive to manufacture EVs locally.

Sales of electric scooters have more than doubled this year, with annual sales expected to hit more than 1 million units by March 2023, up from 150,000 a year ago, according to industry data.

SoftBank-backed Ola Electric, valued at $5 billion (£3.8bn), is manufacturing 1,000 scooters a day and has plans to make electric cars and battery cells locally in India.

While the Indian market is focused on sit-down electric scooters, demand for stand-up models has recently seen rapid growth in the UK and the US, in spite of private e-scooters being illegal  on public roads in Britain.

Several companies, including Lime, are currently trialling e-scooter rentals in a number of British cities under a government-backed programme.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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