News agency Reuters says the number of total loss vehicles is increasing due to damaged electric vehicle (EV) batteries, saying there is no way to repair or assess even slightly damaged battery packs following vehicle accidents. This results in higher premiums and mitigates potential environmental benefits of EV usage.
According to Reuters, most vehicle manufacturers claim their battery packs are repairable, but as battery data is linked to connected-car data which is considered valuable, OEMs are unwilling to share information.
Christoph Lauterwasser, Managing Director of the Allianz Center for Technology, a research institute owned by Allianz, said the company knows of scratched battery packs where the cells inside are likely undamaged, but without diagnostic data the insurer writes off the vehicles.
According to Bankrate, an online publisher of financial content, US insurers ‘know’ that “if even a minor accident results in damage to the battery pack… the cost to replace this key component may exceed $15,000.”
Ford and GM claim their latest battery packs are more repairable, but the Tesla Model Y’s batteries are part of the vehicle’s structure and cannot be easily removed.
Reuters quoted Sandy Munro, head of Michigan-based Munro & Associates which advises OEMs on how to improve vehicles, as saying the Model Y battery pack has “zero repairability” and that a Tesla structural battery pack “is going straight to the grinder”.
However, earlier this year, Tesla boss Elon Musk said the company is improving its design to lower repair costs and insurance premiums.
While EVs represent a small proportion of vehicles on the road, Lauterwasser said the number of cases will increase.
Reuters reported that in the last 12 months, the number of EVs in the isolation bay at UK salvage company Synetiq had risen from “perhaps a dozen every three days to up to 20 per day”.
According to the report, insurers say the problem should be fixed by making the batteries in smaller sections, or modules, that are easier to repair, along with opening diagnostics data to third parties to determine battery cell health.
Matthew Avery, Research Director at Thatcham Research, said that dumping batteries also reduces environmental gains from the EV transition.
“We’re buying electric cars for sustainability reasons, but an EV isn’t very sustainable if you’ve got to throw the battery away after a minor collision,” he told Reuters.
Lauterwasser agreed, claiming EV battery production emits far more CO2 than fossil-fuel cars. “If you throw away the vehicle at an early stage, you’ve lost pretty much all advantage in terms of CO2 emissions,” he added.