Scratch Your EV Battery? Seemingly Minor Damage Could Make Insurance Total Your Car According To Report

Electric vehicles are rapidly becoming popular with a new generation of buyers, but while they offer plenty of technology, range and performance what happens if you get into an accident with one? If you damage the battery, the result might see your car get totaled as a growing pool of EV buyers are discovering when navigating the insurance process according to a new report published by the folks at Autoblog.


Can A Battery Pack Really Total Your Car?

A key factor in this trend is that while the rest of a typical EV is easily repairable by most collision shops, there is no way to repair or assess the battery packs themselves which is partially due to the way that they are constructed. That’s evident in the estimating process with damage to a battery pack often not being able to be seen by an estimator (a former career of this very author) when they go through the evaluation process for determining the cost of repairs after an accident.

Even minor damage or scratches from accidents could force insurance companies to write off relatively new electric vehicles due to the high cost of replacing these packs. As for the damaged packs themselves, they are now rapidly piling up at junkyards across the country with these discarded batteries rapidly becoming a big problem for some countries. As mentioned, a new battery pack has a high price tag, with a replacement battery pack potentially costing over $10,000, with the price of the pack in question often making up 50% of the typical price tag of a new EV offering. As a result, that gives insurance companies a very narrow window of space to work with when it comes to covering repairs, with the battery pack often being the key thing that pushes an EV over the limit as far as coverage and into the area where they might choose to total the car instead.

“We’re buying electric cars for sustainability reasons,” said Matthew Avery, research director at automotive risk intelligence company Thatcham Research. “But an EV isn’t very sustainable if you’ve got to throw the battery away after a minor collision.”

For their part, automakers claim that they have made the latest generation of battery packs easier to repair and service with Ford and GM recently confirming that in separate statements. In contrast, Tesla has made their latest packs even harder for outside shops to service with the component itself not only being glued into place, but also being engineered to be a part of the vehicle structure itself. With many EVs often using a unibody structure that joins the body and the frame together into one piece (versus body-on frame) having a battery pack like this can make a crash related repair even more expensive.


What Can Automakers Do To Solve This Issue?

In addition to making their battery packs more repairable, automakers can also allow repair shops access to the software and diagnostic data needed to fix some of the issues that are exclusive to battery packs. Access to this software will not only help reduce the frustration that’s often associated with fixing battery packs, but also allow insurance companies to have access to diagnostic data which can in turn help them make better determinations when trying to decide whether to cover repairs or total the car.

Progress in this particular area is mixed with some automakers offering access to this information while others are more restrictive which can impair the ability of the shop to repair an electric vehicle. However, at the end of the day, this study highlights the broader evolutionary challenges that EVs face. The quest for more range is ongoing and automakers are still working on making EVs be able to go through their teething pains while still providing a good long-term ownership experience for EV adopters.