India's electric vehicle (EV) industry has been facing a major challenge when it comes to battery safety, following a series of incidents in which battery thermal runaways caused EVs to catch fire during the summer of 2022. However, the industry and the government have taken concrete steps to address this issue and are now set to introduce revised and improved battery safety standards, which will come into effect from March 2023. These new standards are expected to boost consumer confidence and drive faster adoption of EVs.
A Look Back at Previous Safety Norms
Before delving into the new safety standards, it's important to understand the previous safety norms and the gaps in them. Until 2020, India had the AIS 048 safety certification, which mainly applied to lead-acid batteries that were commonly used in vehicles. In early 2021, the AIS 156 safety certification was introduced for lithium-ion batteries that were rapidly replacing lead-acid batteries. The new standard was a major improvement, introducing new tests for mechanical vibrations and thermal shocks, impact resistance, and external fire resistance.
However, there was still a need for even higher levels of safety in the design and construction of batteries, and the government took steps to introduce additional safety norms.
New Safety Standards: Going One Step Further
The revised safety standards are aimed at pushing EV batteries to be even safer, down to the cell level. The new norms were introduced in two phases, with the first phase requiring battery manufacturers to adopt changes by December 2022, and the second phase by March 2023.
Phase 1: In this stage, the Battery Management System (BMS) is required to be run by a microprocessor, making it smarter and faster. The microprocessor-based BMS will maintain the battery's operations within safe temperature limits and discharge and charge currents. It will also quickly detect any external short circuits in the vehicle or charger and isolate the battery from any mishap.
Furthermore, the cells used in a battery pack must be thoroughly tested to meet the IS 16893 cell testing requirement, and spaced adequately within the battery to prevent thermal runaways. An external safety fuse is also included as an added layer of fail-safe electrical isolation.
Phase 2: The second phase introduces even higher safety standards, following the IP67 ingress protection standard. This means that the battery unit would remain unaffected even when fully submerged for longer periods in cases of flooding, and would be completely dustproof to withstand rough conditions.
Manufacturers must ensure that their battery pack is resistant to thermal propagation that could cause battery fires. All battery packs must have at least four temperature sensors to constantly monitor temperature variations, and an audio-visual alarm will warn the user if there is a problem with the battery in use.
The industry has readily accepted these new safety standards, successfully adopting the regulations under Phase 1 and in the process of adopting the Phase 2 guidelines. The new standards are expected to increase consumer confidence in the batteries used in their EVs, and enable the Indian EV manufacturing industry to compete globally.
The revised and improved battery safety standards set to be introduced in March 2023 are a major step forward for India's electric vehicle industry. The new safety norms push EV batteries to be even safer, down to the cell level, and are expected to boost consumer confidence and drive faster adoption of EVs. With the industry already adopting the regulations under Phase 1, and set to adopt Phase 2 guidelines, the Indian EV manufacturing industry is poised to compete globally in the coming years.