Once an automotive oddity, electric vehicles are now becoming a more common sight on our roads. Whether it’s hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius, or fully electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf or Tesla’s products, the benefits of electric vehicles are numerous, for both the owner and the environment.
However, electric vehicles still present some challenges, such as the distance you can practically cover in a day being less than in most traditional cars, and access to power points not always being easy.
But with concerns over environmental damage from petrol and diesel, fossil fuel costs, and fears of peak oil, we’re likely to see more and more electric cars over the next few years.
But are there any special insurance issues surrounding these cars?
What is e-car insurance?
E-car insurance is pretty much the same as your regular variety of car insurance. It protects you in the event of an accident involving your vehicle.
Because electric cars operate differently to traditional vehicles they do present some unique issues for insurers such as:
- Costs of specialised parts
- Repairs will need to be done by specialist mechanics
- Expensive batteries
- Potentially greater risk of pedestrian accidents due to quiet running
This does mean that while e-car insurance policies may be slightly different to normal ones, the nuts and bolts of them remain the same.
How much is electric car insurance?
Because the e-car insurance market is still quite young you’ll find that insurance prices vary quite a bit. You may find that insurance comes in a little cheaper than for standard cars. Quite often this is because:
- Vehicles are smaller and less powerful, so safer to drive
- Drivers of electric vehicles are seen as more responsible people, and so less likely to drive dangerously
However, due to the vehicles being new and the technology that powers them more specialised, it can be more expensive to have repairs done so you could also find that the insurance you’re offered is more pricey.
As with anything else it pays to get a spread of quotes. But don’t assume that the cheapest is the best. Check the details of the policy to see if it’s right for your situation, especially in a couple of trouble areas, which we’ll look at now.
What should you consider when insuring an electric or hybrid car?
Here are some key points to keep in mind when insuring your electric car:
It’s quite common for the owner of an electric car to lease their battery from the manufacturer. You buy the vehicle but pay a monthly fee for the battery, usually with some agreement on monthly mileage, and at the end of the lease period the battery will be replaced.
You can buy the battery yourself but once it’s no longer functional in a few years you have to foot the bill for replacement yourself, and they aren’t cheap.
If you lease your battery then you need to know exactly what your responsibilities are in the event of an accident. Some manufacturers may expect you to insure the battery, while others may replace or repair it themselves at no extra cost.
You must also inform your insurer if the battery is leased, as your policy may not cover a leased battery.
Power cable cover
When charging an electric vehicle you’ll have to plug it into a charging outlet and this means cables trailing across the ground.
If you’re charging at home on your driveway or in a garage then that’s fine. But what if you’re parked on the street and need to lead a cable across the pavement? Or when you’re charging at a public charge point?
Cables on the floor present a trip hazard, which could mean injury and a potential insurance claim. It’s worth speaking to your insurer to see if they have cover for these kinds of claims.
Special circumstances for electric cars
Electric vehicles do present some special bonuses compared to traditional cars. The first is that they are exempt from road tax, which will end up saving you a fair bit of money each year.
The Government also offers a plug-in car and van grant. If the electric car you’re buying meets certain criteria, then you can get a grant that covers 35% of the cost of the car up to a maximum of either £2,500 or £4,500, depending on the model.
Additionally, some insurers offer perks to owners of electric cars, including reductions on premiums or charitable donations on your behalf, but you’ll need to shop around for these.
E-car insurance is a new field so take your time when shopping for a car insurance quote.