IE caught up with Copart UK MD Jane Pocock to find out more about hydrogen cars. Could these water producing vehicles play a part in our insurance future?
IE; There is a general rush towards battery powered vehicles right now, but for heavy goods, buses or some construction work, a hydrogen vehicle could be a better bet long term?
JP; It is something Copart has noticed recently. Pure EVs and hybrids are getting increasingly popular but sometimes they aren’t the best solution. Especially in the larger vehicles. We have been looking closely at what JCB are doing, for example, with their prototype hydrogen digger and other HGV manufacturers exploring hydrogen. It will take time, but this could become a more sustainable alternative as doesn’t require mining for raw materials!
IE; The other advantage is that hydrogen lets you convert existing engines, plus you don’t have to rely on a lithium and cobalt supply chain?
JP; Yes, these are absolutely definitely upsides. You can convert an existing ICE (internal combustion engine) fairly easily. Another bonus is that Copart is already set-up for the storage of hydrogen powered vehicles, we are always thinking ahead, which is important for insurers too of course. As these vehicles enter the market, there will be increased claims, and insurers will need to make sure that hydrogen trucks or diggers are stored safely, assessed for repair or salvage, just like EVs, hybrids or ICE vehicles.
It’s important to cordon off storage areas for hydrogen, and to invest in training and standards. Copart is most definitely looking at using hydrogen powered vehicle loaders and transporters too. Every company in the insurer supplier chain is aware of ESG compliance and that means hydrogen is a green option that’s well worth looking at in the future.
As an industry we probably need to move a bit faster on hydrogen because so much focus and investment has been all about electric cars and who knows if we have raw materials to manage the commitments already made. The transport infrastructure from the next decade and beyond will definitely be very different that’s for sure.
IE; Let’s talk EVs, because the reaction at the British Motor Show was very positive, more UK drivers seem ready to embrace EVs, or at least hybrids. What are the trends Copart is seeing in EVs at the moment?
JP; Several key trends really. More EV cars on the road mean more are arriving in the salvage market. The market is adapting to handling these cars and the associated training required for handling, repair and dismantling as you would expect. There is alsoinvestment in battery recycling or storage facilities. It’s essential to store battery packs safely after a claim as some are leased and some belong with the vehicle also a secondary market for battery packs is now emerging. It’s hard to say how shortage of parts might affect EVs in the longer term, but the demand for battery packs will increase as the number of EVs on the roads goes up. Never a dull day in the salvage industry!
Everyone is now striving to reduce their carbon footprint and review their CSR impact and our industry are also working hard at this. With sustainability being a key focus and lifestyle changes impacting on vehicle choices and fossil fuels going out of favour – there is more change than ever! Copart thrives on change and we are well underway with preparations for all these developments. We are fundamentally a recycling business in any case so promoting repair of damaged vehicles in the most sustainable way is our aim.
IE; Now the roads are busy again, are there more hybrids and EVs going through the repair and salvage system?
JP; Yes there are and we have noticed some trends. For example, lots of EVs weigh quite a bit and that means a relatively low speed impact can cause serious damage a become a write-off, not just of the EV itself, but also often the ICE car involved in the collision. To be honest most repairers are pretty proficient at repairs of EV and hybrids now as they have been circulating for years now is just the frequency of repair that is increasing.
The battery pack inside most EV cars is also very heavy, and it has fewer crumple zones to absorb energy. That means the energy from any impact has to be transmitted elsewhere, throughout the chassis of the EV or hybrid. So that damage can mean the car is not repairable.
IE; Interesting, so the mass adoption of electric cars could mean a higher percentage of write-offs vs repairables, which might not be good news for the environment long-term?
JP; It’s possible. But you know how fast the manufacturers move with advancements – they will combat any early design issues. If you take the entire impact of a switch to electric cars, in terms of extra power needed for charging at home, public charging points infrastructure, battery manufacture, disposal and recycling, then you see that hydrogen actually has a great deal going for it especially for the heavier vehicles, where batteries just can’t cope in their current format.
IE; We may yet see laws that require EVs to make a noise, to alert pedestrians and cyclists in cities.
JP; Yes, they do sneak up on you! I’m sure that will become compulsory as the carpark increases, it’s great to see evolving developments in cars, more recent change than there has been in the last 100 years and we want to play a part in recycling everything we can from vehicles. Whether it’s green parts that can be used again without compromising safety, or reclaiming materials like rare earth minerals from battery packs, it’s vital that we take the opportunity.
The salvage sector is heading away from simply its traditional focus on spare parts or damaged car suppliers, to being something much more valuable; a partner in the resources chain. Its great to see all these evolving supply chains and it brilliant to see we are creating more and more reliable supply chains within the UK and globally.
IE; Interesting stuff, thank you.