Repairing Today’s Complex Vehicles

Mar 1, 2021 | Industry

By Ryan Mandell – Report from Mitchell International

The growth of the electric vehicle (EV) segment presents specific challenges for the collision repair and insurance industries as EVs require additional labor for the management of the high voltage battery system and also are typically constructed using a higher percentage of lightweight materials which makes repair of major components more difficult. With new vehicle models constantly becoming more complex, EVs are often considered to be among the most complex in the collision repair industry.

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By analyzing data from Mitchell’s estimating database as well as data produced by Mitchell Diagnostics scan tools, we set out to examine the level of complexity involved in repairing EVs to bring greater visibility to the industry.

Diagnostic Requirements

When comparing EVs and ICEs across all model years and all methods of inspection, we find that EV estimates contain some kind of diagnostic scan 49.57% of the time while ICE estimates contain a scan only 38.6% of the time. However, considering the fact that most EVs are newer model year vehicles, the disparity between the numbers shrinks significantly when we analyze 2015 and newer vehicles only and find a diagnostics rate of 50.6% for EVs and 48.75% for ICEs (Figure 1). At first blush we may be tempted to jump to the conclusion that the diagnostic needs of EVs are on par with ICEs and that there is little difference in the technological challenges present in repairing both kinds of vehicles.

Figure 1

Conversely though, the validity of this narrative fails to hold water when examining the average number of fault codes present on a typical scan for EVs and ICEs. For scans completed in 2020, based on data compiled using the Mitchell Diagnostics scan tool, EVs produced an average of 12.58 fault codes per scan while ICEs only produced an average of 8.51. Even when narrowing the findings down to 2015 model year and newer vehicles, ICE fault codes only increased to 8.83 while EVs rose to 13.26 (Figure 2). It is arguable that EVs should be receiving diagnostic scans at a significantly higher rate than their ICE counterparts based simply on the fact that when EVs are scanned, 50% more fault codes are surfaced to the technician. So while diagnostics are rapidly becoming necessary operations in the course of collision repair, the necessity is even more apparent when it comes to EVs.

Figure 2

Construction Considerations

The primary reason for construction differences between EVs and ICEs has to do with light weighting. EV average curb weight is approximately 200kg greater than the average ICE (Figure 3). According to Global Vehicle Transport Company Kar-Tainer, “this relates mainly to the relatively low energy density of lithium ion batteries as opposed to petrol fuel.”

Figure 3

Manufacturers must find ways of offsetting the greater weight requirements of the high voltage battery systems by utilizing lightweight materials such as aluminum, ultra-high strength steel (UHSS), composites, and carbon fiber for a greater percentage of the vehicle’s over construction. As mentioned earlier, these materials can be considerably more difficult to repair or in some instances, such as with some forms of UHSS like Boron Steel, the material properties may actually prohibit a repair altogether. To illustrate this point we analyzed five major component parts (hoods, fenders, door shells, deck lids, and quarter panels) and the repair frequency of each for both ICEs and EVs and found that for four out of the five part types, it was less likely to be repaired on an EV than on an ICE (Figure 4).

Figure 4

Thus, it is important to for repairers to understand the composition of EV parts and review associated OEM repair procedures to ensure that a proper and safe repair will be executed. Recyclers must also take notice that a gap exists when it comes to EVs that the aftermarket has been unable to fill. The percentage of alternate parts utilized for fully battery electric vehicles is far below that of both mild and plug-in hybrid vehicles (Figure 5).

Figure 5

Cycle Time

With vehicle complexity on the rise, cycle time is of utmost importance to insurers and repairers alike. Increasing diagnostics and calibrations requirements, coupled with repair challenges associated with lightweight materials and potential COVID-related supply chain challenges mean that it is much more difficult to complete a repair in the same amount of time as a comparable labor hour repair even just a few years ago. As discussed earlier, EVs represent the leading edge of automotive technological advancements. We can see this materialize in analyzing the average number of labor hours for repairs of both EVs and ICEs. In 2020, the average EV repair estimate contained 4.04 more labor hours than the average ICE repair estimate (Figure 5; body and refinish hours only). When we examine keys to keys cycle time differences between EVs and ICEs, we find a striking difference with the 2020 YTD average for EVs coming in at 10.7 days and ICEs at 9.5 days (Figure 6). Even if we normalize the data to only look at repairs with final estimate totals under $2,000, we find a similar delta with ICEs taking 5.5 days to repair and EVs taking 6.6 (Figure 7, 8).

Figure 6
Figure 7
Figure 8

Clearly, the differences between EVs and ICEs go way beyond the method of propulsion.  EVs truly are a different breed that come with their own specific set of requirements and exemplify the changes in complexity seen in the automotive industry over the past decade. Recyclers have a unique opportunity to fill a hole in the alternative part supply chain when it comes to EVs and provide insurers and repairers alike with cost and time effective replacement part options for a growing segment of the car parc.

References

1  Based on Mitchell 2020 YTD estimate data

2  Based on Mitchell 2020 YTD estimate data

https://www.kar-tainer.com/post/container-transport-electric-vehicles-vs-ice-vehicles

Ryan Mandell is Director of Performance Consulting at Mitchell International. He engages with auto insurance carriers to analyze claims data and identify opportunities for performance improvement. He also works with claims executives to develop action plans to optimize such opportunities and see them through to fruition, and provides continuing consultation to insurance carriers on the most up-to-date trends in the automotive industry. Prior, he worked at Autowrecking.com/B&R Auto Wrecking and with Precision Collision Auto Body.

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