EVs, or electric vehicles, have been around for quite some time now, and they’re becoming an ever-more prevalent sight on UK roads. Now, while they’re a crucial element of decarbonising the global transport sector, it’s well-known by now that they’re not necessarily a perfect cure-all. True, their lack of emissions does bring tangible environmental benefits, but right now manufacturers are grappling with the issue of how some of those benefits are being offset by the environmental costs of EV manufacture and disposal.
It's no secret, for example, that the mining of the materials required for EV batteries is taking a not-insignificant environmental toll. However, another emerging issue is that electric cars are being written off after minor damage to their batteries – which is just one reason why you might have seen increasing numbers of them recently in online car auctions like ours here at RAW2K.
So what exactly is causing the problem, and is there anything that can be done?
EV batteries posing big problems for mechanics and insurers
According to auction house Copart, roughly half of the low-mileage EVs being salvaged have few issues other than minor battery damage. That raises the question of how economical many EVs can really be, if they can be effectively written off so easily.
One of the major contributing factors is that the placement of the battery itself often makes it vulnerable. Many EVs follow what the industry refers to as the ‘skateboard design’, in which the battery is placed underneath the car, essentially forming part of its chassis. That potentially means common and normally trivial mistakes can easily damage it – for example, simply mounting the kerb.
And once an EV battery has sustained damage, it can cause a headache for the insurer. It’s the most expensive part of an electric car by far, accounting on average for about 50% of its value. What’s more, there are only a few technicians in the UK with the qualifications and expertise necessary to remove the battery, let alone repair it.
All that makes electric cars more complex and time-consuming to repair than ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. Plus, with certain models there can be supply chain issues and difficulties with obtaining specific components and parts. That can leave drivers in for a long wait, sometimes even for up to 12 months or so.
So with all that in mind, it’s easy to see why in lots of cases, most insurers judge that the most straightforward and cost-effective solution is to simply write-off the car.
An all-electric future is still some way off
Right now, 95% of new ICE cars (i.e. any fuelled by petrol and diesel) can be recycled, from their scrap metal bodies all the way up to the fluids and composite materials inside them. But we’ve taken a long time to get to the point where we’re able to recycle that much of them, and EVs are nowhere near that stage just yet. In fact, many salvage plants currently have no way of safely disposing of electric vehicle batteries.
That makes battery repair one of the top priorities for the UK’s EV industry to solve well before 2035, when a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles is expected to come into force. Industry analysts have also pointed out that the government needs to invest in retraining technicians in EV repair.
However, it’s worth highlighting that there are optimistic predictions too – the infrastructure to support electric cars is projected to expand as they become more widespread on our roads, and there could be more opportunities to use electric batteries, especially if they’re no longer suited to cars. There’s speculation, for example, that damaged electric batteries could be put to use in homes or solar farms, for example.
Ultimately, though all these issues pose challenges at significant scale, they’re all likely to remain solvable, in one form or another. But until they are, they pose major barriers to the wide-scale rollout of electric vehicles on our roads.
For that reason alone, the majority of vehicles you’re likely to see in our own online car auctions here at RAW2K will be internal combustion engines – so you can be sure they’ll all remain easy to take apart, repair, or even scrap for parts.
We’ve got a huge range of salvage cars to choose from in our online car auctions, including many from world-famous brands like Toyota, BMW and Renault. Our auctions are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, so there are always bargains to be found. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?