The government appoints DRDO to investigate Ola Electric and Okinawa scooter fires
To investigate the circumstances leading to the explosion and fire of an Ola S1 Pro electric scooter that took place on March 26, 2022 in the Dhanori area in Pune, Maharashtra, and an Okinawa Praise Pro in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), has asked the Centre for Fire Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES) to look into this matter.
CFEES is part of a cluster of labs that fall under the purview of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The letter from MoRTH is addressed to CFEES fire engineer MK Jain, and has also been shared with director of CFEES Rajiv Narang, Okinawa Autotech MD Jeetender Sharma and Ola Electric vice president (Corporate Affairs) BC Datta.
In the letter, MoRTH has asked CFEES to share the findings of the reports along with "remedial measures for improvement in each of these cases" with the ministry, adding that "an early action is solicited". Both fire incidents involving Ola and Okinawa scooters surfaced on March 26.
Multiple Twitter users uploaded several clips of the Ola S1 Pro parked on a street in Pune, which showed the scooter in question first emitting heavy amounts of smoke, mostly emanating from its floorboard and the underseat storage, and then spontaneously catching on fire, whereas on the same day, reports surfaced of an Okinawa electric scooter that caught on fire when charging overnight in Tamil Nadu resulting in the deaths of a man and his 13-year-old daughter. While the full investigation into the fire is pending, Okinawa issued a statement essentially saying the fire broke out due to the user's 'negligence' in the charging of the scooter.
Ola Electric had swiftly responded to the incident, confirming it would begin an investigation into the occurrence of the fire immediately, with the remains of the scooter being taken to its headquarters for an examination. It issued a statement saying, "We are aware of an incident in Pune that happened with one of our scooters and are investigating to understand the root cause and will share more updates in the next few days. We take this incident seriously and will take appropriate action and share more in the coming days".
And here's what Okinawa Autotech's statement read, "Our heartfelt condolences to the family. As per credible sources, the media, and the local authorities, it is an evident case of a short circuit due to negligence in charging the vehicle. We will wait for the complete investigation to unfold. Our customers' safety is extremely important to us, and we adhere to the highest quality standards in our electric scooters"
"This particular case has further brought to light how important it is for users to understand the correct usage and charging guidelines for EVs. As a responsible brand, time and again, we have been coming forward and taking a lot of initiatives to create awareness and educate our customers on the proper usage of electric 2-wheelers and about the possible hazards that they could experience in case of any negligence in taking proper care of the battery of the vehicle. While the brand has been ensuring safety measures and standards for its customers, we sincerely request that they cautiously and responsibly implement the usage to avoid any foreseeable harm", the company added in its note.
Electric vehicle sales are surging in the country. And the scooter segment in particular has seen the most growth over the past year or two. Ola and Okinawa are among the top three electric two wheeler manufacturers today (in terms of monthly volumes), and the findings of the investigations will be key to instilling confidence in the minds of both existing and potential electric two-wheeler buyers. If not addressed quickly, it can have a severe effect on both Ola Electric's and Okinawa's product demand and the growth of the company.