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Workshop scene: "We have more than 125 years of experience with combustion engines, but only about ten years with modern electric vehicles."

Photo: jacoblund / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Although drivers of electric cars cause fewer accidents, repairing their vehicles is significantly more expensive. "On average, they are 30 to 35 percent higher than those of comparable cars with combustion engines," says Jörg Asmussen, Managing Director of the German Insurance Association (GDV).

The industry is accompanying the shift away from fossil fuels, Asmussen said. In view of the climate crisis, this remains "the only right way". For this reason, one warns at an early stage against a development at higher costs.

For its evaluation, the association compared 37 model pairs of electric cars and comparable combustion engines. Christoph Lauterwasser, Managing Director of the Allianz Center for Technology, attributes the higher repair costs to several causes: For example, damage to batteries is generally expensive. In addition, there is uncertainty when dealing with damaged electric cars, which is why some of them are stored in quarantine for a long time or become total losses due to precautionary measures such as immersion baths in extinguishing containers. In addition, the industry complains that defective vehicles are parked for a long time and high hourly rates are charged for them.

Background: Cooling the battery in a water bath is recommended in the case of fires smoldering in lithium-ion batteries to prevent them from flaring up again – whereas extinguishing foam does not help. Although this risk is considered extremely rare, the fear of it is widespread. The insurance industry seems to fear exaggerated caution.

"We have more than 125 years of experience with combustion engines, but only about ten years with modern electric vehicles," says Lauterwasser. Heinz Gressel of the GDV therefore calls on manufacturers to provide good diagnostic data for workshops and experts, sustainable instructions for the repair and partial replacement of damaged batteries, as well as precise criteria on how to deal with cars that have been involved in accidents. In addition, batteries should be protected as much as possible from accidental damage during vehicle design.

Problem for Acceptance

According to Gressel, insurers require workshops and experts to check batteries quickly in the case of damaged electric cars, to rule out fire hazards at an early stage and to keep quarantine storage as short as possible. In addition, more specialists should be trained and further trained for the repair of electric cars. "If the costs of electromobility get out of hand, their acceptance will also fall. And we can't afford to risk that," says Gressel.

However, at least part of the higher repair costs will be offset by the significantly lower damage frequency of electric cars in the fully comprehensive insurance sector – i.e. in the case of self-inflicted damage to one's own car. According to the study, it is 15 to 20 percent lower than that of comparable combustion engines.

In the area of liability insurance, electric car drivers caused five to ten percent less damage to other cars, according to the study. On average, however, these were up to five percent more expensive than combustion engines. Possible reasons for this are the higher weight and stiff bodies of electric cars.