Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling


Low-mileage electric cars being written off by insurers

Low-mileage electric cars are being written off by insurers after even minor accidents due to the cost of repairing or assessing damaged battery packs, resulting in high insurance premiums and piling up waste in vehicle recycling yards, according to a Reuters report today.


Low-mileage electric cars being written off by insurers p

Matthew Avery, research director at automotive risk intelligence company Thatcham Research, said:

“We’re buying electric cars for sustainability reasons.” He added: “But an EV isn’t very sustainable if you’ve got to throw the battery away after a minor collision.”

For many of these cars, repairing or replacing the battery packs can be uneconomical, as battery packs can cost tens of thousands of dollars and make up to 50% of an EV’s price. 

Insurers and industry experts warn that unless battery packs become more easily repairable and battery cell data more accessible, the trend of low-mileage, zero-emission cars being written off after minor accidents will continue to grow, leading to higher insurance premiums and environmental waste.

Christoph Lauterwasser, managing director of the Allianz Center for Technology, a research institute owned by Allianz (ALVG.DE), said: 

“The number of cases is going to increase, so the handling of batteries is a crucial point.” 

Battery packs from a range of car manufacturers are piling up in recycling yards in some countries, leading to concerns about the environmental impact of electric cars. 

While EVs are often bought for sustainability reasons, they risk losing their environmental advantage if they are written off after only a few miles due to the cost of repairing or replacing the battery packs. While access to battery data and repairability is a concern, so is the fact that the production of EV batteries emits far more CO2 than fossil fuel models. EVs must be driven for thousands of miles before they offset those extra emissions, making it all the more important to ensure that battery packs are easily repairable and do not add to the growing waste problem in recycling yards.

Lauterwasser added:

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

Most carmakers claim that their battery packs are repairable, although few seem willing to share access to battery data. Insurers, leasing companies, and car repair shops are already in a fight with carmakers in the EU over access to connected-car data, including battery data. For instance, Allianz has seen battery packs with scratched exteriors where the cells inside are likely undamaged, but without diagnostic data, it has had to write off those vehicles. 

EV battery problems also expose a hole in the green “circular economy” touted by carmakers. For instance, 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.

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

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.

The British government is funding research into EV insurance “pain points” led by Thatcham, Synetiq and insurer LV=.


SYNETIQ April 2023 M

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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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e2e Total Loss Vehicle Management [e2e] is the UK’s only salvage and automotive recycling network with nationwide, environmentally compliant sites delivering performance resilience and service reliability to the insurance and fleet markets.  The network’s online salvage auction drives strong salvage resale values and faster sales.  e2e’s salvage clients have access to the network’s stocks of over 5 million quality graded, warranty assured reclaimed parts. 

The power of the network model means e2e has the ability to influence industry standards and is committed to continually raising the bar whilst redefining the role and perceived value of the salvage operator.  Network members adhere to robust service level agreements, against which they are audited, in order to ensure performance consistency and a market leading customer experience.  

The salvage and recycling operating environment is evolving rapidly, and e2e is anticipating, listening and responding to changing market needs.  Regulatory compliance, ESG, reclaimed parts, customer experience, EVs, new vehicle technologies, data and reputation risk are just some of many considerations linked to the procurement of salvage services.  e2e will drive further added value to clients and members through the adoption and application of emerging technologies, continuing to differentiate its proposition and position salvage services as a professional partnership. 

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