Each year car manufacturers come up with more innovative technology for their vehicles. As a result, body repair shops are forced to adapt to the ever-changing environment to remain capable of handling car damage repairs. These adaptations include training of personnel, acquiring new equipment, and obtaining required certifications. All recent developments combined have made repairing car damage of newer vehicles more expensive. According to Fixico's data, the average repair costs for one-year-old vehicles went up by 29% from 2016 to 2019.

Furthermore, electrification has been a growing trend in the automotive industry, and the fast-paced developments are not expected to slow down any time soon. As electric vehicles (EVs) continue to gain popularity for their low energy consumption and affordable prices, the difficulty of their repairs will also continue to increase. Newer models of EVs are known to bring levels of complexity that often lead to higher repair costs and extended repair duration. When trying to minimise repair costs, there are a couple of nuances to be aware of.

This article, based on our whitepaper: 'How fleets can reduce costs by allocating repairs more accurately', explains why the cost and duration of EV repairs can be higher and what can be done to optimise them.

Why repairing electric vehicles is more complex

Reason 1: Required precautions for a high-voltage battery
Most electric vehicles run on lithium-ion battery packs that are expensive to replace and require extra measures to be handled safely. If repairers are not trained to deal with EVs, they could potentially ruin the battery, and if they don't follow the extra safety measures, they can put their own wellbeing at risk. Therefore, repairers have to go through specific training and obtain certifications to be able to perform repairs on EVs. Because not all body repair shops have the knowledge or resources to carry out EV repairs, the search for a suitable repairer has gotten more complicated.

Even if the battery itself is not damaged, the body repair shop still needs to pay close attention to it. In some cases, it needs to be removed from the vehicle or disconnected from the system. For example, if the whole vehicle needs a respray, the battery pack needs to be removed completely. The vehicle is usually placed under big heat lamps to dry the spray paint. If the battery stays inside, the lamps can cause overheating and a risk of reducing the battery's lifespan.

Due to the highly dangerous batteries and sophisticated elements that make EV repairs complicated, the cost of repairs naturally grows. On top of that, safety measures tend to extend repair durations, resulting in longer cycle times and vehicle downtimes.

Blue electric car vehicle in a body repair shop

Reason 2: Increased usage of ADAS
As car manufacturers keep innovating their cars, the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) also continue to evolve. ADAS increase the safety on the road and help drivers with tasks like parallel parking and lane alignment. But on the other hand, they make repairs more costly. EVs often come equipped with a wide range of ADAS, and body repair shops now need to obtain the necessary equipment, facilities, training, and skills to repair or replace ADAS-equipped parts.

ADAS-sensors can be stored in parts of the vehicle that are easily hit during a collision - bumper, side mirrors, windshield, tire and wheels. So calibrating ADAS to ensure they are still working correctly, has become an essential part of repairing EVs.

It increases the duration of the repair and requires expertise in calibration, which means more hours for a repairer to charge. Fixico's data shows that, depending on the part and ADAS, the process of calibration can take up to 2 hours more time and be 40% more costly than non-ADAS repairs.

Reason 3: Use of lightweight materials
Many electric vehicles contain different mixtures of (mostly lightweight and more expensive) materials. The reason for this is energy efficiency - the lighter the car is, the less energy and fuel it needs to accelerate. The other reason for the increased usage of lightweight materials is strict European CO2 emission laws for new cars that manufacturers must abide by.
Previously, car manufacturers used iron or steel metal for vehicles. In the past, repairers could just bang out a dent on a steel-bodied vehicle or apply high heat and call it a day. Now, applying high heat could easily ruin the shape of the panel.

The additional reason for increased costs is the use of lightweight materials is the so-called 'crumple-zones'. Each car has a crumple zone - an area that will take most of the impact during a collision, increasing the safety of the passengers inside. Composite materials (aluminium, magnesium and steel blends) are better at absorbing energy than solid steel, which is why it is being used more often by car manufacturers. But with better energy absorption during the collision, the size of the damage is also increasing. It is no exception that panels need to be replaced entirely after a collision, which, in turn, leads to higher repair costs.

How to optimise costs of electric vehicle repairs

To optimise the costs and to know what to expect from the repair process, there are a few tips on how to approach the search for a suitable body repair shop when it comes to repairing EVs:

Select the body repair shop best equipped for the job
Before looking for the right repairer for the job, it is important to know what your vehicle needs precisely. Every car is different. Within the electric vehicle category itself, there are already clear distinctions between battery-, plug-in hybrid-, or hybrid electric vehicles. Next to this, OEM-certifications play their part too, as you can imagine that a Tesla or a Nissan EV repair requires an entirely different repair approach. Going directly to the repairer with the right certificates, expertise in dealing with the ADAS which the vehicle is equipped with, and experience with required lightweight materials will significantly minimise the risks of having higher costs. The ideal body repair shop will be trained and equipped to remove (or deactivate) the battery safely and will be able to calibrate the ADAS. Furthermore, identifying the specialist in the aforementioned areas will lead to quicker repair durations and prevent allocating the repair to a shop that has to rely on outsourcing to get the job done. However, identifying which shop meets all the right requirements for each individual damage occurrence sounds like an awful lot of work. Luckily there are ways to streamline this process.

Digitalise your search
By embracing digitalisation, identifying the right repairer for electric vehicle repairs will be easier, and costs can be reduced significantly. With Fixico, fleet- and claim managers can easily identify the optimal body repair shop for their EV repairs, and it also allows them to take other criteria such as availability or total duration into consideration. The end-to-end platform guarantees that each and every repair gets taken care of under the optimal conditions while unlocking unique insights, reduced cycle times and competitive prices.

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