Most EV manufacturers prefer lithium-ion batteries and hence, there was a need to develop safety standards in order to accelerate the adoption and provide safe vehicles to end users.
Over the past few decades, fossil energy consumption has been rising in India, which has deliberately boosted carbon dioxide emissions. To supersede the negative effects of fossil fuels, there is a need to adopt more environment-friendly alternatives and move on to green energy solutions. Transportation, being an integral part of the nation’s development, is also one-third of the cause of pollution.
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However, to curb this issue, clean energy transitions are already underway in terms of the adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs). Over the past few years, EVs have grown in terms of availability and visibility, owing to technological advancements, new-age manufacturing methods, and supporting government policies.
Most EV manufacturers prefer lithium-ion batteries and hence, there was a need to develop safety standards in order to accelerate the adoption and provide safe vehicles to end users. Before diving deep into the subject, the benefits of Li-ion batteries in supporting the rapid adoption of EVs must be acknowledged.
Significance of Li-ion Batteries for EVs
Industries have understood the significance of Li-ion batteries and are coming up with innovative solutions to increase their efficiency to support the cause of clean energy storage and sustainability. Previously, smaller versions of Li-ion batteries have been common in gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops, etc. Now it has emerged as the most widely used battery in EVs due to several advantages:
However, to successfully bring these batteries into the production of EVs, they should pass the benchmarks of the Bureau of Indian Standards and the norms of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. As a result, following the safety standard steps became mandatory in order to provide a safe end product to the user and avoid any future problems.
Safety Standards of Li-Ion Batteries for EVs
Safety standards are usually formulated in the interest of the end user by rolling out robust and safe vehicles on the roads. These amendments generally focus on the safety requirements related to the battery cell, the design of battery packs, thermal propagation, and other similar factors. These norms are usually designed and conceptualised as per Indian road conditions and are mandatory for every battery and EV manufacturer. These safety standards were made mandatory to guarantee product safety, to ensure that products and materials are purpose-fit, and to promote interoperability of products and services while maintaining a common understanding of a product.
According to the latest notification from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of India (MORTH), the new battery safety amendments have been released and will become mandatory in two phases. Phase 1 will be rolled out on December 1, 2022, and the 2nd phase will start on March 31, 2023. As of now, there are three major standards for traction battery packs, namely AIS 048 (the old standard), AIS 038 Rev 2, and AIS 156.
AIS 048 (EV categories L, M, and N): This primary standard addresses the Traction battery safety requirements for EV categories L, M, and N. It generally comprises two types of testing. One is an electric abuse test, which is at the cell level and contains short circuit and overcharge tests. Another is a mechanical abuse test at the pack level, which includes vibration and a mechanical shock test.
It was noticed that for high-density batteries, it was difficult to comply with the nail penetration requirements. In addition, as EVs and batteries evolved, new challenges and complications arose. Therefore, to overcome these issues, amendments were made to these standards in the following categories.
AIS 038 Rev. 2 (M & N Category): With assistance from GTR 20V (Global Technical Regulation) and ECE R100 Rev. 3, this standard includes a system-level safety approach. The standard caters to M- and N-category vehicles and does not include categories of 2W and 3W. In this safety standard, the battery and the vehicle are considered as a single unit, and the tests are conducted from a functional safety point of view. This step is to ensure that the battery and the vehicle stand out on the Automotive Safety Integrity Level and are protected from any thermal runaway.
AIS 156 (L category): This safety standard is strictly for the L category vehicles, including 2W, 3W, and quad cycles. The standards are designed to meet the safety requirements for EV powertrains and REESS (Rechargeable Electrical Energy Storage Systems). This standard also includes two tests. One is an IPX7 rating test, which caters to water ingress protection, and another one is a thermal propagation test that ensures the safety of the user and bystanders in case of any thermal runaway. The criteria for evaluating the ability of the REESS is that there should be no fire or explosion during or after the test.
The future of Li-ion batteries
The energy storage sector has seen modernisation and the adoption of new and advanced chemistries and technologies in recent years. Lithium-ion batteries are among the most recent adopters, and their performance and features have made them the most preferred and demanded technology. These batteries are already influencing the way EVs are being designed in these modern times and will be a crucial factor in retaining the growth of this industry. These safety standards are crucial to accelerating the demand, innovation, and technological advancements and eliminating tailpipe emissions.
A lot of progress has already been made in the field of Li-ion batteries around the world, and some Indian companies are already on their way to gaining a first-mover edge in the industry. In the future, there will be new challenges and new solutions, supported by safety standards that are compatible with Indian road conditions and end-user needs.
— The author, Sunil Gandhi, is the CEO of JLNPhenix Energy. All views expressed are personal.