Thatcham Research to identify EV repair and insurance pain points

Thatcham Research has announced it will lead an Innovate UK-funded five-month project focused on electric vehicle (EV) collision repair and salvage processes and their impact on insurance claims and their associated costs.

EVs are set to play a central role in achieving the government’s 2050 net zero target. However, with the repair and insurance process for an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle differing greatly from an EV, very little is known about the risks presented by EVs to that process and in turn wider EV adoption.

Adrian Watson, head of engineering at Thatcham Research, said: “The automotive industry, and OEMs specifically, have been extremely agile in adapting their businesses to meet the net zero challenge laid down by government. This has seen drivers plugging into EVs in ever increasing number, making now a critical moment for those throughout the value chain to put everything in place to support this rapid transition.

“In many circumstances, EV accident repair is no different from ICE vehicles. But under the hood lie everyday essentials, such as safe, cost-effective, timely post-accident repair, and the surrounding claims process so critical to putting any new vehicle on the road. And nowhere is the difference between EV and ICE more clearly underlined than in the insurance claim chain.”

One of the most significant potential blockers to wholesale EV adoption is the battery. Conscious that batteries are expensive, vulnerable items, OEMs rigorously protect them within crash structures, and batteries will rarely be affected by low-speed impacts. However, challenges arise when the battery is involved, either directly or indirectly as a result of a collision, or indirectly when the high voltage system becomes associated with the repair.

Watson continued: “It’s vital that the industry comes together to ensure customer expectations of owning, insuring, and repairing an EV can be met—and that the experience can be better than they’re used to with an ICE.”

Thatcham will be working in close partnership with LV= General Insurance, one of the largest insurers of electric cars in the UK and part of the Allianz Group. With its recently launched ElectriX one-stop shop for leasing, charging and insuring EVs, LV= aims to support drivers looking to switch to electric.

The research will draw upon real-world claims data to inform project modelling.

Chris Payne, head of networks and engineering at LV=, said: “As a motor insurer, we’re focusing on two trends at the moment: developing green methods of repair and supporting the wider adoption of electric cars. That’s why this project is so exciting and crucial. It is about finding together as an industry what is the best way to repair EVs and their batteries, rather than writing them off.”

Vehicle salvage, dismantling and recycling specialist Synetiq, will also play a key role in the project. As a business focused on recycling and reusing as much of a crash-damaged vehicle as is possible, it will bring essential insight into the readiness of the market for financially and environmentally sustainable EVs post-accident, with a particular focus on their batteries.

Tom Rumboll, UK managing director for IAA and CEO of Synetiq, said: “We’re delighted to be part of this project and thrilled to work in collaboration with Thatcham Research and LV= to explore the challenges that come with the recycling of EV batteries.”

In the first phase of what is likely to be a significant cross-industry effort, the project will focus on identifying where the claims workflow is different for EVs, revealing potential pain points. Thatcham will also quantify the resulting challenges by projecting how the uptake of EVs will affect the transition to a fully electric car parc, to inform where more detailed work may be required in the future.