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Scratched EV battery? Your insurer may have to junk the whole car

March 20, 2023

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ian Magness



LONDON/DETROIT, March 20 (Reuters) – For many electric vehicles, there is no way to repair or assess even slightly damaged battery packs after accidents, forcing insurance companies to write off cars with few miles – leading to higher premiums and undercutting gains from going electric.

And now those battery packs are piling up in scrapyards in some countries, a previously unreported and expensive gap in what was supposed to be a "circular economy."

"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."

Battery packs can cost tens of thousands of dollars and represent up to 50% of an EV’s price tag, often making it uneconomical to replace them.

While some automakers like Ford Motor Co (F.N) and General Motors Co (GM.N) said they have made battery packs easier to repair, Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) has taken the opposite tack with its Texas-built Model Y, whose new structural battery pack has been described by experts as having "zero repairability."

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

A Reuters search of EV salvage sales in the U.S. and Europe shows a large portion of low-mileage Teslas, but also models from Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS), Stellantis (STLAM.MI), BMW (BMWG.DE), Renault (RENA.PA) and others.

Unless Tesla and other carmakers produce more easily repairable battery packs and provide third-party access to battery cell data, already-high insurance premiums will keep rising as EV sales grow and more low-mileage cars get scrapped after collisions, insurers and industry experts said.

"The number of cases is going to increase, so the handling of batteries is a crucial point," said Christoph Lauterwasser, managing director of the Allianz Center for Technology, a research institute owned by Allianz (ALVG.DE).

Lauterwasser noted EV battery production emits far more CO2 than fossil-fuel models, meaning EVs must be driven for thousands of miles before they offset those extra emissions.

"If you throw away the vehicle at an early stage, you’ve lost pretty much all advantage in terms of CO2 emissions," he said.

EV battery problems also expose a hole in the green "circular economy" touted by carmakers.

At Synetiq, the UK’s largest salvage company, head of operations Michael Hill said over the last 12 months the number of EVs in the isolation bay – where they must be checked to avoid fire risk – at the firm’s Doncaster yard has soared, from perhaps a dozen every three days to up to 20 per day.

"We’ve seen a really big shift and it’s across all manufacturers," Hill said.

The UK currently has no EV battery recycling facilities, so Synetiq has to remove the batteries from written-off cars and store them in containers. Hill estimated at least 95% of the cells in the hundreds of EV battery packs – and thousands of hybrid battery packs – Synetiq has stored at Doncaster are undamaged and should be reused.

It already costs more to insure most EVs than traditional cars.

According to online brokerage Policygenius, the average U.S. monthly EV insurance payment in 2023 is $206, 27% more than for a combustion-engine model. 


Quite apart from the extra cost of insurance, the issue of CO2 emissions rears its head. As emissions are much higher for building an EV, as opposed to a petrol car, the fact that EVs may be scrapped prematurely is a double whammy, both in terms of the emissions involved in battery production as well as the car as a whole.

Personally I don’t think I’d fancy driving an EV with a “repaired” battery anyway!

  1. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 20, 2023 2:25 pm

    Magnetic pole to pole in an EV. I can’t make sense of this April 1st sounding story.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      March 20, 2023 2:54 pm

      Stupid stunt which, when it fails will no doubt be ignored.

      BTW – and a bit off topic: do not listen to a WATO Catchup if you value your BP. Some extremely arrogant female ‘scientist’ was being interviewed about the new IPCC ‘report’. Her near-religious attachment to her belief in CC and, more-so, for the 1.5C Armageddon that awaits had me shouting at the radio urging the presenter to simply ask her guest – after she claimed that billions would need to be spent: What if you’re wrong?????!!!!

  2. Carnot permalink
    March 20, 2023 2:34 pm

    This is old news. It is inevitable that this was going to emerge as a major drawback and environmental disaster. The leasing companies will be taking a bath when all those leases espire and they try to find a sucker. A 3 year old EV is going to depreciate faster than scud missile in its terminal phase.

  3. March 20, 2023 2:41 pm

    “you’ve lost pretty much all advantage in terms of CO2 emissions”. Just as well that CO2 emissions are a red herring ?

  4. Gamecock permalink
    March 20, 2023 2:46 pm

    “We’re buying electric cars for sustainability reasons”

    Gamecock suggests you by your next car for transportation.

    “But an EV isn’t very sustainable if you’ve got to throw the battery away after a minor collision.”

    Whah! Whah! You knew it was a snake when you picked it up.

  5. March 20, 2023 2:55 pm

    “Personally I don’t think I’d fancy driving an EV with a “repaired” battery anyway!” I wouldn’t drive a brand new one and I wouldn’t allow one onto my property.

    • John Hultquist permalink
      March 20, 2023 4:37 pm

      I wouldn’t allow one onto my property.
      I’d allow one if parked on the driveway and stayed 50m from my buildings, and not near shrubs or trees.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        March 20, 2023 7:27 pm

        “I’d allow one if parked on the driveway and stayed 50m from my buildings, and not near shrubs or trees”

        This might work in the US, buy you’d struggle to find many UK properties which fit that limitation!

  6. Ben Vorlich permalink
    March 20, 2023 2:57 pm

    How do you know what’s happened to the internal structure of a battery that’s been involved in an airbag triggering shunt to be able to claim any percentage being OK?

  7. Phoenix44 permalink
    March 20, 2023 3:04 pm

    Since EVs cost more than equivalent ICEs, insurance premia will obviously be higher. But if minor accidents that would cause minimal damage and so small claims for an ICE car cause £10,000 damage because the battery has to be scrapped, they will soar to very high levels.

  8. ThinkingScientist permalink
    March 20, 2023 3:18 pm

    Wouldn’t it be better for these cars to just have large arrays of places where you can simply put in readily available AA batteries?

    That way you would gain the advantages of:

    (a) easy and safe disposal of used batteries at supermarkets
    (b) possibility of using standard and widely available batteries
    (c) possibility of using standard and widely available rechargeable batteries
    (d) Gives the ability of being to carry a spare set of batteries in the boot (a bit like a spare can of diesel)

    • March 20, 2023 3:52 pm

      See Mercedes AA Class

      – plus some Environment Agency antics if you click through author link.

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        March 20, 2023 5:54 pm

        Excellent – I even managed to find the original from Saturday night Live!

    • John Hultquist permalink
      March 20, 2023 4:41 pm

      I’m sure my supermarket would not want all those AAs — I’ll guess a car-load would weigh more than the Tesla batteries.
      Here’s how much Tesla car batteries weigh based on the models:

      Roadster: 992 lbs (450 kg).
      Model 3 Standard Range: 1054 lbs (478 kg).
      Model 3 Long Range: 1168 lbs (530 kg).
      Model Y: 1168 lbs (530 kg).
      Model S: 1377 lbs (625 kg).
      Model X: 1377 lbs (625 kg).

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        March 20, 2023 5:56 pm

        I can see weight might be an issue, but surely there is some about-to-be-invented lightweight battery just around the corner/over the horizon/imminent from some super-duper high-tech startup being hosed currently with government money?

        I mean, surely battery weight can be reduced to close to net zero within just 10 years?

      • Micky R permalink
        March 20, 2023 6:08 pm

        ” Model S: 1377 lbs (625 kg).
        Model X: 1377 lbs (625 kg). ”

        An early British Mini weighed less than that with a full tank of fuel.

  9. March 20, 2023 3:29 pm

    Just another reason to not buy an EV. These toys are unreliable, expensive displays of conspicuous consumption. They build the car around the battery packs which are very expensive and difficult to access and replace. The battery will probably burst into flames before it needs replacement, unless the vehicle is in a road accident–then it’s off the the scrap yard.

  10. March 20, 2023 3:41 pm

    I suspect the Insurance Companies will, with much prodding from the EU, adopt the same policy as they have with young drivers.

    Young men a far bigger risk? So what! You’ve got to charge young women exactly the same! Maybe the really modern, mutilated ones might get a discount, sometime soon? Goes with ESG!

    You get my drift? I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the Insurance Companies introduced a policy that, to help save the planet, petrol car drivers had to pay 100% more insurance than the “equivalent” electric car. And diesel? 200% more. We are forced to sponsor the virtue signalling barstewards in many other ways, as it is.

    Another point to mention is that damage to road pavements are proportional to the axle loading raised to the fourth power. So, twice as heavy? Just sixteen times as much damage. Then there’s the minerals to excavate, the child slaves, the dismantling & disposal costs. Even the tyre rubber ground away and adding to those naughty pm2.5s that kill “40,000” (nameless) “people every year”; (if you believe that you’ll believe anything). A little “gift” that gives “sustainability”, GangGreen style. And gives and gives and gives and gives.

    Who knew?

  11. dearieme permalink
    March 20, 2023 4:09 pm

    Easy answer: armour the cars so that the batteries take no damage. If needs be carry a missile launcher or machine gun to ensure that other cars give you a wide berth.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      March 20, 2023 6:42 pm

      EV drivers, Audi drivers on speed…

  12. John Hultquist permalink
    March 20, 2023 4:32 pm

    This issue reminds me of the classic autos with lots of
    Chromium (Chrome-plating.). Young readers may not
    remember all the shiny Chrome.

    I don’t see it mentioned in this article but at the time one of the issues was that Chromium-on-steel made for expensive repairs and a difficult recycling process.

    • Jordan permalink
      March 20, 2023 7:21 pm

      Those shiny chrome bumpers looked nice, but as you say, had their drawbacks. They were rather unforgiving if they collided with shin bones and young children.

  13. 2hmp permalink
    March 20, 2023 5:01 pm

    The latest research into the effects on the human body when in highly charged magnetic fields for long periods is concerning. Is this the Achilles heal of electric cars ?

    • dave permalink
      March 20, 2023 5:22 pm

      “…[electro]magnetic fields…”

      There is such a thing as the ‘Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work[place] Regulations (2016)’.

      Whether the fields inside an EV while being driven are greater than are allowed in the workplace is an interesting question.

    • Gamecock permalink
      March 20, 2023 5:36 pm

      It’s settled science. No, it’s not a problem.

      As a pacemaker wearer, I pay attention these concerns. There are no specific warnings for pacemaker wearers and electric cars, other than don’t get near the motor when it’s running. Since motors and passengers are several feet apart, nothing can happen.

      • lordelate permalink
        March 20, 2023 10:29 pm

        In my Land Rover handbook it specifically mentions that people fitted with pace makers should not get too close to any of the alarm (radio?) sensors of which I recall counting 9 or so. there then follows a diagram ofthe car showing the snsor location and likely danger area.
        Just sayin.

    • M Fraser permalink
      March 20, 2023 7:28 pm

      A colleague of mine sat on top of the bank of batteries in the telephone exchange for 30 years, died under 60 with a nasty cancer. Not proven of course but there weren’t many volunteers for his job.

  14. avro607 permalink
    March 20, 2023 6:41 pm

    Just a heads up Paul.The UN are now upping the propaganda to aim for a 2040 date for net 0.

    • John Hultquist permalink
      March 20, 2023 7:18 pm

      I just saw 60% by 2035.
      Maybe different mouthpieces.
      China claimed they would reach their energy needs by 2030; a lot of coal.
      That could be the start of a plateau.

  15. John Brown permalink
    March 20, 2023 10:03 pm

    Insurers are absolutely right to be wary of evs with scratched Li-ion batteries. Worse, these batteries do not even have to undergo physical abuse to cause a fire, it can just happen through exposure to high humidity and Common Mode Voltage (Noise).

    As well as the ferocity of the fire itself, according to Professor Christensen of Newcastle University, the vapour cloud from a runaway Li-ion battery fire can contain hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen cyanide, all very nasty.

    Watch this Australian video of Professor Christensen warning of the dangers :

    Start at 1:01:45

  16. M E permalink
    March 21, 2023 4:04 am

    These electric vehicles are not very Green.. The Green parties of the world should consider truly non industrial methods of transport of ‘persons’ and necessary goods suitable for a sustainable economy and reduce unemployment

    Shanks’s Pony for local transport of the Lower Orders Walk to work or the local co operative shop
    Sedan Chairs for Superior People. These will employ the Lower Orders, Two to a chair.
    Rickshaws for Business People of Superior class. Fast younger unemployed men useful here instead of hanging about.

    Barge Horses. to reuse Canals for transport of basic goods. Families needed to work Long Boats… takes care of accommodation problems.
    Windmills to grind grain for transport on rivers and canals

    Dig more Canals with ‘navvies’ using pick and shovel to keep down the population of fit working men.

    Other ponies to carry goods in saddle bags while Lower Orders are on their way by Shanks’s pony to market .

    Haul barges up river with teams of political prisoners. Why let them sit around moping and writing novels.

    Tread mills for Prisoners .
    etc etc
    Green Parties lack imagination and need a boost if we are to achieve reduction in population size with no emissions.

    These are good and noble suggestions, I maintain. and will, without fail ,have no effect whatsoever on any climate on the planet, but the Greens can feel noble and self sacrificing while promoting them

    • March 21, 2023 12:54 pm

      For an inside look at the true motivations behind the EV proponents, see the 7 March issue of Washington Examiner–At The End of the EV Rainbow, you will probably Be Riding A Bus. It is available online by searching the title, is one page, and very informative.

  17. Philip Foster permalink
    March 22, 2023 11:03 am

    I have a possible solution for all the EV batteries that are dumped. They could be thrown into a tank of seawater (suitably isolated from the air – in particular O2) and they will generate hydrogen with LiCl, LiOH as a by product. About the only way to make H2 without using vast amounts of energy!

  18. Gamecock permalink
    March 25, 2023 1:18 am

    I asked my Tesla owning friend about his insurance rates. He says he pays the same as he did for his previous Jaguar.

    Actuaries are usually on top of trends, so I suspect Tesla’s are not experiencing unusual loss. Their losses are just dramatic. Make it to Youtube.


  1. Insurers are Writing Off Electric Vehicles with Minor Damage – Watts Up With That? – The Insight Post

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