By Remy Maisel
Although lockdowns and the economic impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) meant fewer cars overall were sold in 2020, the proportion of sales made up of pure-electric and plug-in hybrid models increased, says Stephen Errity of DrivingElectric.com.
Electric cars can save you money on refuelling and they’re great for the planet – but people still hesitate to buy them. Concerns like where to charge on long journeys, the cost of the vehicles, and the cost of insurance are common. But the good news is that people are innovating quickly, and it’s becoming easier to be the owner of an electric car. Some of the concerns are now much less of an issue.
The cost of insuring an electric car
Many people believe it’s more expensive to insure an electric car (EV). We asked Martin Smith if this is true. “The realistic answer will always be, ‘Who knows?’” he says. “There are many things that go into the modern, sophisticated pricing models used by insurance companies which look at a whole range of factors both relating to the driver and how they’re going to use the vehicle.”
These factors include driving experience, claims history, and – of course – the performance of the vehicle as well as the anticipated cost of repairs to that vehicle if it becomes involved in an accident or gets stolen.
“So, there are a huge number of factors, and they’re common regardless of what powers the vehicle. But with electric vehicles being a relatively new form of technology it’s certainly the case that they’re a bit unique,” says Martin. “They bring to repairs different requirements, which are unusual. You must have the right technology, so that used to be reflected in the price. But over time, as that technology becomes increasingly mainstream, the effects have been flattened out in the pricing models.”
Essentially, there’s nothing unique to EVs that makes them more expensive to insure – they’re like any other car. If it’s very expensive or has a lot of technology, those are things that can contribute to a higher premium.
“This is the concept that so many people are still struggling to get their head around – as soon as they hear the words ‘electric vehicle’, they’re throwing their arms up in horror saying, ‘this is something completely different, we don’t understand it’– but it isn’t,” Martin says. “Fundamentally, a vehicle is still a vehicle – it drives.”
When it comes to car insurance, one of the most important considerations is still the potential for accidents. “Potentially the biggest expense from a vehicle is when is when it’s involved in an accident and causes injury and damage, and that’s down to the person behind the wheel,” says Martin. “And it doesn’t matter if it’s powered by electric, diesel, petrol, hybrid or a rubber band – it still has the same potential to cause destruction and mayhem.”
Do EV owners need specialist insurance?
Martin believes electric vehicles need to be demystified. People may buy an EV and think it’s a unique product that requires specialist insurance, but that’s not the case. “Fundamentally it’s another vehicle. It’s got four wheels,” Martin says. “The only difference is what’s under the bonnet which makes it go forwards and backwards.”
What’s important is if your car is damaged or stolen, you want your insurance company to sort the problem out– either repair the car or pay the market value. That’s no different if the car is petrol, diesel, hybrid, or pure electric. And, on the flip side, if you cause an accident, you want your insurance to deal with any claims made against you.
“Every single existing motor product underwritten by Aviva will do all that, regardless of what’s under the bonnet,” says Martin. “An electric car owner may also be concerned if their insurer has the capability to repair an EV. And I can say, with absolute confidence: yes. We certainly do.”
Aviva’s large network of approved repairers includes technicians trained in all the appropriate courses needed to work on electric and hybrid vehicles. They have all the correct equipment and diagnostic capabilities to do repairs and, most importantly, they’ll work strictly in accordance with the approved repairer methods so your car will be restored to a similar condition it was in when it left the factory.
Some specialist policies might provide you with a hybrid or electric vehicle courtesy car if yours is out of commission. Currently, Aviva offers a standard small petrol or conventionally powered vehicle. Martin says this has the potential to change, but it can be hard to supply vehicles that aren’t widely available in the hire fleets. “We get a lot of our mobility and courtesy vehicles from the likes of Enterprise or Hertz, so until they have large stocks of small EVs for rental, it’s difficult for us to provide EV mobility to our customers.”
According to Stephen, Citroen is considering introducing its 'ami' short-range two-seater urban electric vehicle to the UK market. This currently retails in France for the equivalent of around £5,500 and is also aimed at the short-term rental and car-sharing markets – so there’s hope for EV hire options.
But EVs are different – what about batteries and cables?
EVs do have some differences to other cars. For example, you have a charging cable, and it’s possible that when you plug in your car, someone might trip over the cable, get injured, and sue you. “An electric vehicle policy will probably cover you for a trip event,” says Martin. “But your standard motor policy will provide that cover too. You also might find that the cable is stolen. The cable is part of the vehicle, it’s an accessory. And all our policies cover accessories. So, while we don’t necessarily specify ‘charging cables’, we cover accessories, so if something happens to the cable, it’s covered.”
Range anxiety, or the fear of running out of battery, is another common concern when people either consider or first buy an EV. “The first generation of electric vehicles, it’s fair to say, had limited realistic ranges – what was publicised as the predicted range and what you got in reality could be quite different, and this was impacted by your driving style, the traffic, the ambient temperatures,” Martin says.
However, modern EVs have much better ranges – it’s realistic to have a range of over 200 miles. Remember, a much bigger proportion of car sales in 2020 were hybrids or electric cars, which also suggests people are realising they’re a more viable option. “This greatly increased proportion of sales going to pure-electric cars is likely the result of much better availability and choice of electric models in 2020 compared to 2019,” says Stephen.
But if you’re still worried about running out of charge, fear not. Although there’s an extensive network of charge points across the UK, if it does happen to you, your insurer is likely to step in to help, considering this a breakdown. Different policies and providers will all have slightly different approaches to this but, like Aviva, they’ll probably come and assist you if you run out of charge – just like they would if you ran out of fuel.