India's Ola Electric chief says e-scooter fires rare but can happen in future

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A man checks his mobile phone as he waits while recharging his Ola electric scooter, in New Delhi

By Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - There may be more fires in electric scooters in the future but such incidents are very rare, the chief executive of India's Ola Electric said at a private company event, after safety concerns were heightened by a fire in one of its scooters in March.

Ola's e-scooter fire was among a spate of similar recent incidents that triggered an uproar on social media and an investigation by the Indian government.

The company, backed by Japan's SoftBank Group, has recalled more than 1,400 e-scooters and appointed external experts to investigate the cause.

"Will there be occurrences in the future, there might be," Chief Executive Bhavish Aggarwal responded, when asked a question about the fires at a private event on Sunday.

"But our commitment is that we will make sure we analyse every issue and if there are fixes to be done we will fix them," he said, according to a recording from the event reviewed by Reuters.

He described the fires as being "very rare and isolated" in a recording from the event, at which the company previewed a new operating system for its e-scooters.

Fire safety in the automotive industry was a broader issue beyond electric vehicles (EVs), Aggarwal said, adding that petrol-fuelled vehicles had greater need of quality control regulations than the EV industry.

More gasoline-based scooters have caught fire compared with electric models, and this issue pertains to the two-wheeler industry as a whole, Ola Group's chief financial officer Arun Kumar told Reuters.

Initial findings of the government investigation of the e-scooter fires revealed an issue with Ola's battery cells and battery management system, Reuters reported last week, though the firm said its battery management system was not at fault.

Incidents of fires involving e-scooters from Indian start-ups Okinawa and PureEV are also being investigated.

"There will be, sometimes, some minor defects in, maybe the cell, maybe something else, which will cause some internal short circuit," Aggarwal said, adding that Ola had just one incident among its 50,000 e-scooters on the road.

Ola imports its cells from South Korea's LG Energy Solution. Kumar said all companies should source components responsibly and not from "unqualified Chinese suppliers", for instance.

(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and David Evans)

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