Rodents Devoured This Man’s Electric Car, And No One Wants To Cover The Damage

When Samil Sanal started up his electric car for a normal day at work as an Uber driver in February, all the lights on his dashboard began to flash.

“System failure,” said the car.

You never would have guessed what was going on under the hood of the €30,000 EV.

Deep in the bowels of Sanal’s Kia e-Niro, an electric crossover, one or more rodents had gnawed through large chunks of wiring, causing more than $5,000 worth of damage that neither the car’s warranty nor its insurance would cover.

“The rodents had a picnic in the Kia,” Emma Sanal, his wife, told Euronews Next.

The couple and their two children live near Lyon, France, in a house with a garden near the Rhone River. Two older cars parked outside right next to the Kia were uninjured, they said.

Mice or rats nesting in a warm vehicle is not a new phenomenon, and there is no indication that they prefer electric vehicles to traditional gasoline or diesel cars. But car dealers and owners suspect that new eco-friendly materials used in auto parts may be attracting more wildlife than before.

‘The rats ate my car’

A Google search for “rats ate my car wiring” returns dozens of pages of results, from local news to forums where users trade rodent-repelling tips.

Tesla forums also include a long thread from Model 3 owners complaining of rodent-related damage to soy-based insulation.

In the U.S, Several class action lawsuits have been filed against other major automakers in recent years, claiming that soy-based products were to blame for infestations from hungry animals.

These court cases were later dismissed. Back in Europe, the trade group representing auto parts suppliers, CLEPA, says all materials are tested and designed to resist abuse by humans or animals, including rodents.

It says it has no evidence that biodegradable materials used in modern cars, such as soy, hemp or corn, are at greater risk.

“We also know about the insulation material used under the hood or the electrical and water-carrying cables that martens destroyed. [Editor’s note: martens are weasel-like mammals]. These materials were not biobased,” a spokesperson told Euronews Next.

‘external attack’

Kia France said that while the company is sympathetic to the Sanals, their warranty will not cover damage to their car because it is the result of “an external attack”.

“This issue is rare but known to all players in the automotive industry,” a spokesman said.

In fact, some insurers have recently changed the terms of their insurance policies and provide tips to prevent this type of damage, such as keeping the car free of food, the spokesman added in an emailed statement.

He attached a photo of what he suspected were crumbs under the back seat cushion, saying “they could have been what attracted the rodents to the car.”

A second photo showed that the rodents had also eaten the seat belts, which are made of nylon and not a plant-based material.

The Sanals’ insurer, Axa, said it does not cover damage to the interior of a car when it is caused by animals, and that “it is preferable to park the vehicle, whenever possible, in a closed and safe place” to prevent creatures from sneaking into it. .

Sanal parked his car right outside his house and left it charging for the night.

€20 repellent for a €30,000 car

The mechanic who attended the Sanal’s car, who did not want to be identified, confirmed that his case is not unique. Every year, his dealership sees about half a dozen vehicles chewed up by rodents.

However, the extent of the damage in this case was surprising, he said. The car’s main wiring harness, its electrical heart, where up to 10km of wires connect, was largely gobbled up.

Repairing the wires one at a time would take too long, so the entire harness must be changed, he said.

Given the supply shortages that have plagued the auto industry since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ordering the parts and getting the car repaired could take at least another four months.

Sanal, who bought the second-hand EV for €27,000 last year for his job at Uber, has now taken a temporary job as a night market vendor. But the couple had borrowed money from relatives to pay for the car and they say the whole situation has turned into a nightmare.

Sanal says investing another €5,000 in his first electric vehicle, which he loved but only used for a couple of months, is a big ask.

“I want to know: if I put more money into fixing my car, who can guarantee that this won’t happen to me again?”

His mechanic said he couldn’t promise that, but there are €20 rodent repellents that owners can spray on their car from time to time.

“The dealer told us it would be free,” Sanal said with a sigh.

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