EV scooters: Consumers equate EV scooters to ‘half-baked cake’ after fire incidents, one-fifth interested ones to stay away


India’s EV dream faces a damper. Among households interested in buying EV scooters, 21% seem to be now reluctant due to safety, performance and EV infrastructure concerns, shows a survey by LocalCircles, a social media platform which raises citizen voices.

The survey polled 11,500 consumers in 267 districts of India, and found 1% households have bought an electric scooter in the last 6 months and another 2% are likely to buy one in the next 6 months. But EV scooter companies now face a chunk of sceptical consumers who were interested but are now reluctant to buy.

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An Economic Times report on how manufacturers are rushing to re-assure consumers on safety after viral videos of EV scooters catching fire circulated, drew sharp reader response.

“Half-baked cake is indigestible. The EV evolution has to go through toughest safety standards anywhere in the world and should share safety features to save lives and energy,” wrote Hemant Pisat.

“The battery engineering technology in this country is of low quality right from body construction to chemicals meant for operations,” wrote Iyer Venkatakrishnan, a comment that got over 7,000 nods from other ET readers.

It is clear that consumer concerns can lead to a dent in sales, although that stage has not yet been reached.

Sohinder Gill, director-general of the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles and chief executive of Hero Electric, told ET: “There is no dip in sales yet. But there is lot of questioning on what happened and why it happened.”

An Ola Electric scooter catching fire in Pune, which came to light on March 26, brought the issue to a head though incidents of fires in electric scooters have been doing the rounds for a year.

The government ordered a probe. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways asked The Centre for Fire Explosive and Environment Safety to probe the circumstances that led to the incident and also suggest remedial measures.

The EV dream

India’s EV dream is an ambitious one – in private, public and government spaces.

Convergence Energy Services Ltd, the state-run company that handles acquisition of EVs for central and state government departments, has a plan to shift to electric cars and SUVs that could generate a business of Rs 65,000-70,000 crore in the next three years for the EV industry. The company has created an online marketplace for two wheelers called MyEV.com.

In the Budget, the government tripled the allocation for the scheme to subsidise the purchase of electric vehicles. The subsidy under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles (FAME) for fiscal 2023 is projected at Rs 2,908 crore, or more than three-and-a-half times the allocation of Rs 800 crore for this fiscal year and almost nine times higher than FY21.

The subsidy is meant to make electric scooters particularly attractive. India wants to escape from its over-dependence on fossil fuels as fuel price hikes – there have been several after the crucial Uttar Pradesh poll results – can be politically suicidal, as they impact middle-class households the most.

A LocalCircles survey released in August last year showed only 2% respondents concerned about safety of EV scooters.

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Respondents to the latest survey asked for a single-point regulator for electric scooters, implementation of Indian standards for electric scooters, batteries and any other critical assemblies as well as adherence to those standards, robust testing and approval process followed by pilot rollouts. Till this is done, many consumers believe, an electric scooter should not be rolled out in the market.

LocalCircles said it will escalate these findings with multiple nodal ministries.



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Divyansh Singh

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