Photo: Mint

Will homegrown R&D douse EV fires?

Will domestic R&D put out electric vehicle fires?

Ola Electric, the poster boy for India’s electric vehicle (EV) dreams, will spend $500 million on research and development (R&D) for batteries. The question is whether R&D investment alone can alleviate the EV industry’s woes. Mint explains:

What is Ola Electric’s battery research plan?

On July 18, Ola Electric said it will invest $500 million in a battery innovation center (BIC) to develop complete packages of battery pack design, manufacturing and testing. BIC, according to the company, will be one of the largest and most advanced battery cell research and development facilities in the world and will have a wealth of “unique and state-of-the-art” laboratory equipment, including 165 items that cover various aspects of battery cell research. The company’s innovation center will also be able to produce all forms of battery cells used in EVs, including cylindrical, case, coin and prismatic cells.

What makes the plan significant?

In April, Ola Electric recalled 1,441 two-wheelers after the government warned of preventive measures against firms that do not meet safety norms. This happened as a result of a fire in electric two-wheelers. Users have also reported speed issues and battery connection issues. Experts often blamed this on a lack of research into batteries suitable for Indian conditions. Electric car firms have been accused of buying off-the-shelf batteries and installing them in their two-wheelers without confirming whether they will be able to withstand Indian weather and road conditions.

Taking the green road

Will R&D facilities solve these problems?

Industry experts have warned that the global EV ecosystem is not focused on two-wheelers and three-wheelers, which are more widely used in countries like India. As a result, many of the solutions that Indian businesses need either don’t exist or are too expensive. Small investments will not solve the key problems facing India’s electric vehicles, experts said.

What are the problems with the ecosystem?

A key problem, many say, is that companies in India are rushing to get electric cars on the road, ignoring safety norms to shorten time to market. Engineers often say they are pressured to overlook problems because they don’t show up until months after the product has been on the road. Even if Indian firms come up with the solutions the country needs, it will be difficult to convince global cell manufacturers to build to these specifications. Even large companies have trouble finding the right partners.

What can be done to solve this problem?

The two stakeholders said the government’s manufacturing incentive will help expand the scale of the country’s own ecosystem. Ola is one of four companies approved for this program. Industry must also attract talent. India has a dearth of individuals who are well versed in the cell manufacturing process. Companies have been trying to attract talent from South Korea and China, two hubs for battery engineering talent, but have been largely unsuccessful because they disagree on targets, working conditions and even salaries.


I am Sanjit Gupta. I have completed my BMS then MMS both in marketing. I even did a diploma in computer software and Digital Marketing.

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