OEMs seek clarity on new EV battery safety guidelines

NEW DELHI: Leading automobile manufacturers have sought clarifications from the Centre on the 2 November notification by the ministry of heavy industries on the new ‘human safety’ guidelines for electric-vehicles, industry insiders said.

Following several incidents of electric two-wheeler batteries catching fire, the ministry of road transport and highways had introduced additional provisions to the safety standards for EV battery packs, which will be rolled out in two phases—1 December and 31 March 2023, respectively. The new AIS-038 (for four-wheeler) and AIS-156 (two- and three-wheeler) standards were introduced by the ministry under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules.

Subsequently, the ministry of heavy industries brought out a separate set of rules on human safety, which have to be implemented by 1 April 2023.

However, stakeholders have pointed out certain overlaps between the directives. “There is an emerging consensus that the roll out of the human safety guidelines notified by the ministry of heavy industries needs more deliberations and clarity,” said one of the two people seeking anonymity.

The industry is also divided over seeking an extension to the 31 March deadline to implement the AIS-038 and AIS-156 standards, said a second person privy to discussions at the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), also seeking anonymity.

“While the phase-1 directive is relatively easier to meet and will be implemented, there are challenges in certain aspects of tests for the second phase such as thermal propagation. Members are conducting technical evaluations of the new norms and may urge the government to extended the deadline by three months,” he added.

The ‘human safety’ parameters are mandatory for all manufacturers seeking incentives under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles in India, or (FAME)-II scheme, and for the production-linked incentive schemes for automotive and advanced chemistry cells.

However, amendments to the AIS-038 and AIS-156 battery standards are binding for all manufacturers even if claims for FAME-II or PLI incentives are not made.

Auto companies are seeking clarity on all tests prescribed by the two ministries—whether separate tests need to be done for the same parameters, or the overlapping rules can be done away with, he said.

They’re also seeking clarity on whether domestic agencies have testing facilities for all the new rules, he added.

The development comes at a time when automobile and battery pack manufacturers are strapped for time to obtain certifications for complying with the first phase of the AIS rules from 1 December.

While some auto companies are likely to push for an extension, Tata Motors isn’t making a strong case. “Our certifications for phase-I are a work in progress. We are working very closely with the authorities to ensure we satisfy the requirements by the stipulated timeline. Because of the tight timelines, it was challenging. Fortunately, our processes and systems, and even our components were built in a way that several requirements under AIS-038 were built in our algorithms. So, it just needed demonstration and explanations along with necessary documentation. There is a little bit of issues in terms of some specific products, and we probably need to do some prioritization,” said Anand Kulkarni, product line head, electric passenger vehicles, Tata Motors, which has a 90% share in India’s electric passenger vehicle market. “We have multiple products with different battery capacities, and variants, which have to be certified separately. We are in control as far as phase-I implementation goes,” he said.

So we might have to move one behind the other, starting with the Nexon EV. Within Tigor EV there are fleet and personal variants, we are trying to see how we can navigate this appropriately. We have some time to go with the Tiago EV, and we are planning to use it”, Kulkarni said.

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