Electric Cars

Electric vehicles have 80% more problems than petrol cars, study suggests

Electric vehicle owners have almost double the number of issues with their cars as conventional petrol drivers according to new research.

EVs from the past three model years (2021-2023) were found to have 79 percent more problems than traditional cars, according to a poll of more than 330,000 vehicle owners.

Plug-in hybrids were the worst type of EV for reliability, with owners reporting 146 percent more problems than petrol vehicles.

Difficulties reported spanned electric drive motors, charging and EV batteries.

The poll focuses on car issues, so doesn't take into account charging problems such as unreliable public electric charging points which often cause headaches for EV drivers.

Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, which conducted the research, said: “Most electric cars today are being manufactured by either legacy automakers that are new to EV technology, or by companies like Rivian that are new to making cars. “It’s not surprising that they’re having growing pains and need some time to work out the bugs.”

The study of US drivers looked at 20 potential problem areas including engine, transmission, electric motors, leaks and infotainment systems.

Hybrid cars were found to be the most reliable type of car, with 26 percent fewer problems reported compared to petrol vehicles.

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid car difference

A hybrid car is powered by both an internal combustion engine (like a petrol car) and a battery and electric motor.

It will use petrol for longer journeys and electricity for shorter, slower ones. The battery is powered by the petrol engine or by converting power from braking, so it doesn't need to be plugged in.

A plug-in hybrid also has both petrol and an electric battery, but can be charged from a socket. It's able to travel faster and for longer periods than a standard hybrid.

This was thought to be because they generally don't come with lots of new technology features which could break, plus manufacturers have more experience making them. Steven Elek, of Consumer Reports, said: “It might not seem that long ago, but Toyota launched the Prius hybrid about 25 years ago.

“Automakers have been making hybrids long enough that they’ve got really good at it. Plus, many hybrids are also made by manufacturers that tend to produce reliable vehicles overall, such as Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia.”

However, plug-in hybrids have more that can go wrong with them, as they are "like an EV and a conventional car rolled into one", Mr Fisher said.

Many people may think of Tesla when they first think of electric vehicles, but users have reported issues with the quality of their production.

Mr Elek added: "Tesla owners report a lot of build quality issues including irregular paint, broken trim, door handles that don’t work, and trunks that don’t close. All of these pull down the brand’s reliability score.”

However, Tesla's overall score has improved, with fewer complaints to Consumer Reports about suspension, in-car electronics and build quality. CR says it is "middle of the pack" in terms of its reliability.

NimbleFins research shows the average cost of an electric car in the UK is about £50,000, with a Tesla Model 3 costing more than £60,000.

On the new car market, EV sales have slowed, according to figures collected by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

In September 2023 battery electric vehicles accounted for 16.6% of the market, down from 16.9% the previous year.

However, more used EVs are starting to enter the second hand car market, with sales of used EVs doubling in a year, we previously reported.

Plug in hybrids are up from 5.5% to 6.8%, while hybrids are up 1 point to 13.9% market share.

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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