Electric car myths busted

Electric car charging

If you’re thinking of buying an electric car, you may be concerned about things like getting insured – but don’t worry. We asked Martin Smith, Aviva Motor Technical Claims Manager, to clear up some of the concerns.

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 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.

Does it cost more to run an electric car than a petrol car?

One of the biggest benefits to owning an electric car is that they may cost less to run than their petrol-guzzling counterparts. The downside is that they can also cost more to lease, finance, or purchase outright. It might take some quick maths to work out what’s cheaper in the long-run but having an electric car can certainly make you some big savings when it comes to overall cost of ownership.

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.

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 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 are simpler than we think. 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 to work on electric and hybrid vehicles. They have all the correct equipment and 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, so until they have large stocks of small EVs for rental, it’s difficult for us to provide EV mobility to our customers.”

Batteries and cables: what’s the deal?

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 if something happens to the cable, it’s covered. Additionally, in many of our policies we are now including two extra benefits for our EV customers. If you run out of charge, we’ll arrange for your car to be given a boost or be recovered to the nearest charge point. We’ll also provide cover for breakdown or failure of your home charger."

How long do electric car batteries last?

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 EV's have much better ranges – it's realistic to have a range of over 200 miles. As of the end of September 2023 there were more than 900,000 battery-electric cars registered in the UK Footnote [1]. This suggests that people are realising going electric is a more viable option. With our new Running out of Charge benefit if the worst does happen you know we will be here to assist.

Do electric cars break down more easily than petrol cars? 

All things considered, electric cars are more reliable than petrol cars – they won’t break down as easily. They’ve got fewer moving parts, fluid, and don’t have as many features that need ongoing upkeep like oil filters, traditional clutches, and gearboxes. But you’ll still need to keep a close eye on things like in-car electrics, the battery, and tyres.

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. If Aviva customers choose the breakdown cover add-on and their car runs out of charge, then the RAC will step in to help and give them a boost to their battery or tow them to the nearest charge point. Different policies and providers will have slightly different approaches but like Aviva, they'll probably come and assist if you run out of charge – just like they would if you ran out of fuel.

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