How EVs are Impacting Collision Repair

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Ryan Mandell is Director of Claims Performance, Auto Physical Damage Solutions at Mitchell International, Inc., an Enlyte company. You can reach him at [email protected]. Photo Ryan Mandell

A different approach to vehicle design requires a different approach to claims and shop processes.

There’s no question that the growth in electric vehicle use and adoption by consumers is impacting collision repair. From claims to the actual repair process, EVs bring with them a unique set of challenges. If we look holistically at the repair process, there are three things that we need to consider.

Firstly, there’s the estimate component. In terms of accuracy, like with any late-model vehicle today, a heavy reliance on OEM repair procedures is essential to ensure estimates are written as accurately and efficiently as possible.

Additionally, the design differences between EVs and vehicles with internal combustion engines require an estimating platform that can support those differences.

Secondly, there is a need to understand the complexity of EV repairs and how interconnected everything is on these vehicles. This requires a different approach to repair planning, since the likelihood of secondary and tertiary damage is far greater on an EV than a typical internal combustion engine vehicle.

Sensors and equipment

A good example are the electronic sensors and equipment. Any interruption in the functionality of an EV’s systems constitutes as damage, whether physical impact has taken place or not.

There’s also the question of the shop being able to physically repair the vehicle. For example, are technicians properly trained and equipped to repair advanced multi-material structures, taking into account different substrates such as aluminum, Ultra High Strength Steel and carbon fibre?

Thirdly, we also need to consider customer expectations, and this applies equally to insurers as well as collision repairers. We need to ensure we are looking at this right from the very start of the claims process, before the actual repair begins.

There is a lot of research that demonstrates motorists are, on average, involved in a vehicle collision once every eight years. There’s also a need to consider that in many cases, a motorist who is involved in a crash in their EV today has never been involved in a collision with one of these vehicles before—therefore, they need to have an understanding of what’s involved when it comes to the repair process—such as how long it will take and what is required.

Given that in many cases, technicians will need to be handling the vehicle’s high-voltage electrical systems and removing the battery pack, these concerns need to be addressed with customers whose EVs are brought to your shop for repair, so they understand there is much more involved than with a typical ICE vehicle.

If you’re able to establish and set the right expectations out of the gate, you are far more likely to end up with a successful outcome and a much better chance of retaining that customer long-term following the repair.

Battery considerations

Delving into more detail, it’s also important that the shop and technicians understand that handling the battery is a critical part of the repair process, whether it has been subject to damage or not.

This means ensuring it’s properly removed and reinstalled, as well as minimizing exposure to dust and to high heat. And for both collision centres and insurers, the need to remove the battery adds to cycle time and labour costs and this must be considered when writing the initial estimate.

Also, because so many of an EV’s systems are interconnected, their operation is likely to be impacted by a collision, whether they were physically damaged or not during the accident.

Therefore, just performing pre and post-scans of the vehicle isn’t adequate. Technicians need to conduct extensive system testing and calibrations to ensure everything operates as it should.

There’s also the question of physical repairs and parts replacement. On many EVs, parts replacement rates are likely to be higher due to the way they are designed and engineered. In Canada, roughly 25% of parts can repaired on a conventional vehicle—that number falls to approximately 15% when it comes to EVs.

When you also factor in the current era of parts supply chain issues and the fact that EVs have higher parts replacement rates (particularly among non-legacy OEMs such as Tesla, Rivian and Lucid that have very little aftermarket parts availability), higher costs and added cycle time are likely to be the norm rather than the exception.

In order for collision centres to successfully manage EV throughput, particularly in large metro areas, there will likely be a greater need to develop specialized repair centres designed for EVs, where the shop and technicians are properly equipped and trained to work on these vehicles.

In order to do this successfully however, the industry will have to develop a realistic, real-world feedback loop in order to establish best practices and that applies to every stakeholder involved, from the OEMs to the repairers, insurers, vendor partners and of course the staff at the collision centre.


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