Battery packs are difficult to repair and diagnose after even minor accidents.
This leads to insurers writing off low-mileage EVs which could have been repaired.
This in turns increases the premiums for every EV driver.
Insurance companies and industry experts warn that the lack of battery repairability can lead to premiums which undercut intended gas savings.
This is because battery packs are usually difficult to repair and insurance companies don’t want to risk repairing a car for it to then malfunction or catch fire, which could have them liable for damages or injuries.
In addition, batteries are very expensive, sometimes being worth as much as half of an EVs MSRP on its own, which means that replacing an entire battery is out of the question in most cases after even a minor incident.
This leads to a significant number of electric vehicles being written off at low mileage due to accidents that could have easily been repaired in a combustion-powered vehicle.
To make matters worse, most automakers don’t want to allow insurers or repair companies access to the diagnostics software, which dooms many batteries that could have been repaired.
Indeed, typical battery packs are constructed of a specific number of cells placed next to each other inside of a metal enclosure.
With the proper equipment, technicians can gauge the status of each individual cell and replace only those that have been affected in case of an accident, which dramatically reduces repair costs and the vehicle’s environmental impact.
Since the production of electric vehicles generates more pollution than that of similar models powered by gasoline, EVs need to be driven over tens of thousands of kilometres using clean energy before they become more sustainable.
Thus, by scrapping EVs early over relatively minor damage, insurance companies not only increase premiums for their drivers but also negate any environmental advantage these vehicles could have had over their lifespan.
In order to improve this situation, insurers say automakers should open up their diagnostics software to third parties and construct their batteries using smaller modules that can be replaced individually.
Most automakers say their current batteries are already repairable and both Ford as well as General Motors claim their newest battery technologies benefit from improvements in that regard.
On the other hand, Tesla seems to be going in completely the opposite direction by making its new large pack a structural element in the Model Y built at the Texas Gigafactory.
This allows the automaker to reduce production costs, but technicians and insurers say it will be next to impossible to repair these vehicles since the entire pack can’t be replaced and the individual cells are glued in place.
The automaker hasn’t commented on this, but its CEO recently said design and software updates could make servicing its EVs easier and cheaper.
It is worth noting that Tesla owners are not as impacted by high insurance premiums as other EV drivers since the company offers its own in-house insurance plans which take into account the Service Center’s ability to diagnose the battery.