Sandy Munro, head of Michigan-based Munro & Associates, which tears down vehicles and advises automakers on how to improve them, said the Model Y battery pack has “zero repairability.”
“A Tesla structural battery pack is going straight to the grinder,” Munro said.
EV battery problems also expose a hole in the green “circular economy” touted by automakers.
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.
“We’ve seen a really big shift and it’s across all manufacturers,” Hill said.
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 percent 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.
It already costs more to insure most EVs than traditional cars.
According to online brokerage Policygenius, the average U.S. monthly EV insurance payment in 2023 is $206, 27 percent more than for a combustion-engine model.
According to Bankrate, an online publisher of financial content, U.S. insurers know that “if even a minor accident results in damage to the battery pack … the cost to replace this key component may exceed $15,000.”
A replacement battery for a Tesla Model 3 can cost up to $20,000, for a vehicle that retails at around $43,000 but depreciates quickly over time.
Andy Keane, UK commercial motor product manager at French insurer AXA, said expensive replacement batteries “may sometimes make replacing a battery unfeasible.”
There are a growing number of repair shops specializing in repairing EVs and replacing batteries. In Phoenix, Arizona, Gruber Motor has mostly focused on replacing batteries in older Tesla models.
But insurers cannot access Tesla’s battery data, so they have taken a cautious approach, owner Peter Gruber said.
“An insurance company is not going to take that risk because they’re facing a lawsuit later on if something happens with that vehicle and they did not total it,” he said.