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Electromobility is an important topic of our time. The number of electric vehicles registered in Germany will continue to increase dramatically in the coming years. These vehicles place completely different demands on the repair process than vehicles with conventional drives. special knowledge is also required for handling high-voltage vehicles when assessing damage.

Already when assessing accident damage to an electric / hybrid vehicle, the electrical components must be examined. Only qualified personnel are authorised to carry out repairs on such vehicles. Due to the high-voltage system, electrically instructed personnel are required.

Electric vehicle

BEV - "Battery Electric Vehicle" this is the abbreviation for the electric car, which is powered purely by batteries and electric motor(s). The batteries are charged by cable at a charging station or socket.

Hybrid vehicle

A hybrid vehicle obtains its electrical energy through energy recovery, for example during braking. If there is not enough electrical energy, the combustion engine is available.

Plug-in Hybrid

PHEV - "plug-in hybrid electric vehicle" - is the designation of an electric vehicle whose battery can be charged on the one hand via the power grid and on the other hand also via a built-in combustion engine.

The calculation of accident repairs on electric cars differs in several points from conventional vehicles with combustion engines. The differences start with the ownership of the vehicle and e.g. the battery, which can also be rented. The repair process also differs in terms of personnel, safety precautions and the additional costs involved.

A few details are important when the accident vehicle is appraised by an expert - examples:

  • Electrical know-how: Motor vehicle experts need basic electrical knowledge. Among other things, they must know where the high-voltage power cables run in the car and check these cables for their integrity.
  • Battery in view: The battery check after an accident is similarly important. So-called lithium-ion batteries are used in electric cars and must not be damaged. Otherwise they pose a fire and explosion hazard.
  • Know the additional repair costs: In addition, it plays a role for the expert opinion that the repair workshop should later observe various safety regulations. This increases the repair costs. The assessor must of course include these additional costs in his report, because the injured party benefits from this.
  • This may also include Working under voltage should not be underestimated: the risk assessment, the handling of intrinsically and non-intrinsically safe high-voltage systems, knowledge of the structure of the drive batteries and the entire vehicle body, high-voltage diagnostics, safe working on the electric car.

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Vehicle manufacturers must market electrically powered vehicles in order to achieve the legal CO2 targets for their entire fleet. For us as experts, it is therefore a matter of course to be optimally equipped for expert opinions on electric vehicles.

We are appropriately qualified to properly assess accident damage in this area. We regularly inspect electric vehicles that have been involved in accidents and can score points with our experience and knowledge.

When e-vehicles burn

Delivery stop, charging ban and the largest recall in the history of e-mobility. Hyundai has ordered 82,000 electric vehicles into the workshops in Korea, especially the Kona EV. The recall, which according to the company will cost almost 750 million euros, involves replacing the entire battery system. It is not yet clear whether the recall will be extended to models sold in Europe. In Germany, the KBA had already ordered the inspection of 6,254 of these crossover models in January: "Internal damage to certain cells of the lithium-ion battery and/or faulty control software of the battery management system could increase the risk of an electrical short circuit after the lithium-ion battery has been fully charged," the regulatory authority warns.

The ones who suffer are the customers. BMW sees the responsibility primarily with the supplier of the EGR cooler, but is anything but accommodating in legal proceedings. The burden of proof after a vehicle fire lies with the owner of the vehicle: he must prove the technical defect to the manufacturer in each individual case (despite the KBA recall). Without a lawyer's complaint and an expensive expert, nothing is possible, because BMW takes the position that not all radiators are affected. Nevertheless, the cause of the fire is usually easier to clarify in the case of combustion engines than in the case of battery cars - if only because the experts have much more experience with conventional drives. According to Korean media reports, Hyundai and LG Chem are still arguing about the cause of the 14 battery fires in the Kona EV so far (according to the manufacturer, no vehicle in Germany has been affected yet). The KBA recall cited at the beginning of this article also leaves room for interpretation. The only thing that is clear is that the cells "breathe" during charging and discharging, i.e. they expand and shrink minimally. The smallest impurities in cell production can rub through the separating layer between the positive and negative pole (anode) in places. It is also possible that these mechanical stresses lead to contacting problems and short circuits in LG Chem's flexible pouch cells.

Flare up through the battery

Modern electric vehicles have so-called battery management systems that are intelligent enough to recognise short circuits, to recognise faults, so that a fire development by itself is relatively unlikely and can rather only occur through external influences, i.e. an accident, for example. But even then, the fire development, the heat released, is not significantly different. We have a second peak, because if you imagine a time course of heat release and temperature, then we have a second high point, which is caused by the burning of the accumulator. In addition, toxic gases are a problem. And then we have another difference: we can't put electric vehicles on a par with electric vehicles because the batteries are also constructed differently. Some of them have different cell chemistries, and we have also seen a tremendous development in this area in recent years. It is true that toxic gases are released, and that can be a problem for the firefighters.

Particularly feared in the industry is the so-called Lithium platingDuring fast charging, the lithium ions can no longer be completely embedded in the graphite layers of the anode, instead they settle on the surface. This reduces the service life and, in the worst case, can lead to a short circuit. "The aim is to control the charging process in such a targeted way that you can charge as quickly as possible without damaging the battery," says Peter Lamp, Head of BMW Battery Research and Development.

Battery management system, dhe colour of the high-voltage cable of electric vehicles is orange worldwide.

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Dipl.-Ing. Klaus Kukuk

Dipl.-Ing. Klaus Kukuk

Vehicle engineer Laura Kukuk

Vehicle engineer Laura Kukuk

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