Why Teslas Totaled in the US Are Mysteriously Reincarnated in Ukraine

The war has even at times boosted Ukraine’s electric vehicle resurrection industry, driving up gasoline prices and making electric vehicles more attractive to drivers. Ukraine has a public charging network of some 11,000 chargers, according to Volodymyr Ivanov, head of communications at Nissan Motor Ukraine, more than New York state and double that of neighboring Poland. Since 2018, the Ukrainian government has removed most taxes and customs duties on imports of used electric vehicles. In the United States, electric vehicles tend to be expensive, and the average electric vehicle driver East always a high-income male homeowner. North American wrecks, Ukrainian incentives for electric vehicles and relatively low electricity prices have created a different picture.

“There’s a joke here that all poor people drive electric cars and all rich people drive gasoline cars,” Malakhovsky says. “Tesla is a popular and popular car because it is very cheap to maintain.”

This is a relatively recent development, says Hans Eric Melin, head of Circular Energy Storage, a UK-based consultancy that tracks international flows of used electric vehicles and batteries. He started keeping a close eye on the Ukrainian market a few years ago, after noticing more listings for Nissan Leafs on auction sites listed in Ukrainian than in English. At the time, the Leaf, a pioneer among electric vehicles, was essentially the only one that had been around long enough to develop a healthy used market. Over time, Ukraine’s electric fleet grew to encompass the full range of electric vehicles sold worldwide, including Teslas, as more cars hit the road, aged or got into accidents .

Melin suspected that Ukraine’s electric vehicle boom would end with the war. “I was completely wrong,” he said. This summer, Ukraine’s electric vehicle fleet had doubled since July 2021, to 64,312 vehicles, according to data compiled by the Automotive Market Research Institute, a Ukrainian research and advocacy group.

Roman Tyschenko, a A 25-year-old IT worker who lives in kyiv decided last September that he had had enough of his Jeep’s $400-a-month gas bill. Friends had purchased used and damaged electric cars from an online auction site called Copart, a public auto dealer based in the United States with 200 locations worldwide. He went online and spent $24,000 on a gray Tesla Model Y 2021 who had taken a hard hit on the passenger side in Dallas, Texas. Its bumper was almost completely detached; its hood was tent; some of its airbags had deployed.

This Texan Model Y was probably declared destroyed by an insurer. From there, the wreck was likely moved to an auction in the United States, where licensed exporters, salvage shops and repairers tried to determine how much value they could get from the wreck. The winner, or perhaps the insurer itself, listed the car on Copart, making it available to anyone in the world who wanted a wrecked Tesla and was willing to pay shipping costs .

Roman Tyschenko’s Tesla Model Y gets a facelift in a Ukrainian repair shop.

Courtesy of Roman Tyschenko

If Tyschenko hadn’t brought the Texan Tesla to Ukraine himself, it would have a good chance of being shipped there anyway by someone who professionally transports cars to countries like Ukraine. These exporters are looking for wrecks that are potentially worth more than their scrap value, but little enough that costly repair and resale in the United States makes no sense. Some ship vehicles directly to Ukrainian repairers and pay for repairs, while others import damaged cars and relist them for sale to Ukrainian buyers who can see for themselves.

It takes between one and five months for a damaged North American car to reach a nearby port. Before the war, wrecked cars headed to the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa. Since the Russian invasion in 2022, they pass through Klaipėda in Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, or Koper in Slovenia on the Adriatic, and are brought to Ukraine by truck. A shop like Malakhovsky’s can repair a Tesla in a week to a year, depending on the damage.

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