If you follow automotive news at all, you probably have heard the predictions that electric vehicle (EVs) are hot this year. In fact, some are calling 2011 the year of the electric car. For those of us considering owning an electrified vehicle, insurance companies are cautioning about potential issues that may arise.
For example, some EV batteries will be leased to the consumer by the manufacturer, rather than purchased as part of the vehicle. Battery swap stations – in which you pull in and exchange a depleted battery for a fully charged one – instead of taking the time to recharge, also can lead to ownership questions.
From the perspective of hazardous waste disposal of the electric car batteries at the end of their life, who is potentially liable for any resulting environmental harm? Experts agree that public education on the proper disposal of EV batteries is required. Proper waste disposal facilities are also necessary.
Electric vehicles on the market and in development currently use advanced Lithium Ion batteries (like those in laptops and smart phones). They are quite valuable (costing more than $10,000) and could be a potential target for thieves, beyond car stereos and rims. Current auto insurance policies may not sufficiently provide coverage.
Finally, unique public liability risks can arise from ownership and operation of EVs. These cars tend to run almost silently, which can fail to alert pedestrians, cyclists and even wildlife of the approaching vehicle. There can also be risk associated with recharging if the charging lead is laid from the home into the street where the car is parked.
At this point, there are more questions than answers. Insurance companies, auto manufacturers and the public all need to work together to identify the potential issues related to ownership of electric vehicles and to make sure that insurance coverage is adequate and complete.