“If you’re replacing a damaged battery with a new one, suddenly, once you’ve added in the other costs in terms of labor and hire cars,” says Mark Fry, an engineering manager at Thatcham Research, “it’s just not always economical to repair the car.”
A spokesman for the Association for British Insurers adds that there are issues around the availability of repairers in the UK. The EV insurance market is, arguably, a little wobbly at present. In September, major British retailer John Lewis was forced to stop insuring EVs altogether after its underwriter, Covéa, withdrew cover for these vehicles. A spokeswoman for Covéa declined to clarify why the firm changed tack.
Some US-based insurance firms also exclude EVs, says Tim Zawacki, an analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence. He says the industry is dependent on real-world experience, and at this point, that’s still lacking.
Small Numbers, Big Cost
Separately, a spokeswoman for Admiral, a major insurer in the UK, says battery-related problems can lead to write-offs. “In the absence of an ability to repair, recycle, or repurpose a battery, it’s likely to result in it being a total loss due to its high value,” she says, while declining to confirm whether EVs were being written off more frequently than ICE vehicles.
Christoph Lauterwasser at the Allianz Center for Technology, a German research institute owned by insurance giant Allianz, says damage to the underside of an EV can be more likely to result in a battery casing getting scratched. “The problem is, in some cases, that leads to a total replacement of the battery, which is quite expensive,” he says.
According to Allianz, EV claims currently make up just 2 percent of the total volume of automobile-related claims that the firm handles. However, they account for about 10 percent of the company’s costs.
In Western markets, at least, EVs tend to have a higher percentage, on average, of materials that are difficult to repair, such as aluminum or composites. If such components get damaged in a collision, they are likely to require replacement, says Ryan Mandell, director of claims performance for Mitchell, a collision repair specialist in the US. This, and the lack of established repair procedures generally, is swelling the overall insurance costs associated with EVs versus ICE vehicles. However, Mandell adds that the frequency of EV total write-offs is not, at the moment, exceeding those for comparable high-end ICE vehicles.