LONDON/DETROIT -- For many electric vehicles, there is no way to repair or assess even slightly damaged battery packs after accidents, forcing insurance companies to write off cars with few miles -- leading to higher premiums and undercutting gains from going electric.
And now those battery packs are piling up in scrapyards in some countries, a previously unreported and expensive gap in what was supposed to be a "circular economy."
"We are buying electric cars for sustainability reasons," said Matthew Avery, research director at automotive risk intelligence company Thatcham Research. "But an EV isn't very sustainable if you've got to throw the battery away after a minor collision."
Battery packs can cost tens of thousands of dollars and represent up to 50 percent of an EV's price tag, often making it uneconomical to replace them.
While some automakers like Ford Motor and GM said they have made battery packs easier to repair, Tesla has taken the opposite tack with its Model Y, whose new structural battery pack has been described by experts as having "zero repairability."
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
A Reuters search of EV salvage sales in the U.S. and Europe shows a large portion of low-mileage Teslas, but also models from Nissan, Hyundai Motor, Stellantis, BMW, Renault and others.
EVs constitute only a fraction of vehicles on the road, making industry-wide data hard to come by, but the trend of low-mileage zero-emission cars being written off with minor damage is growing. Tesla's decision to make battery packs "structural" -- part of the car's unibody -- has allowed it to cut production costs but risks pushing those costs back to consumers and insurers.