Most consumers assume that electric cars are more reliable than their gas-powered ancestors. They have fewer moving parts, after all. Yes, but they also rely on complex and relatively new software, which a British study finds is often troublesome, with the Tesla S the most trouble-prone.
The study was conducted by Which?, which is sort of the U.K. equivalent of Consumer Reports, and its survey found that of cars up to four years old, “nearly one in three (31%) EV owners reported one fault or more, compared to less than one in five (19%) petrol cars.”
Besides needing repairs more frequently, the electric cars were also in the shop longer – an average of just over five days compared to just three days for gas-powered cars, according to the survey.
Tesla least reliable
Of course, some EVs did better than others. The low-priced Kia e-Niro had the fewest problems while the high-priced Tesla was the least reliable EV brand.
In cars up to four years old, two fifths (39%) of Teslas had at least one fault and one in 20 (5%) had a breakdown or failed to start.
“We know that drivers are keen to make the move to more environmentally-friendly cars but it is vital that they are getting a quality product,” said Lisa Barber, Which? Home Products and Services Editor. “Whilst it’s disappointing to see that EVs as a group are the least reliable, Kia’s e-Niro shows there is a significant opportunity for manufacturers to up their game and provide drivers with a reliable and more sustainable car.”
Money doesn’t buy reliability
“Which? has previously called for the Tesla Model S, which starts from $94,990, to be recalled over issues with its door handles and locks for two years running. A positive for Tesla is that its cars were only off the road for just under three and a half days on average when they needed repair work,” the organization said in a news release.
The $39,990 Kia e-Niro, on the other hand, was found to be the most reliable EV and also the most reliable small or compact SUV of any fuel type – gas or electric.
Just one in every 17 (6%) e-Niro owners reported any kind of fault with their car and only one in 100 (1%) said their car had failed to start or broke down. However, the unlucky few who did have an issue faced an average of around eight and a half days off the road, the study found.
“With EVs in particular, our research shows a premium price tag does not necessarily mean a reliable vehicle, so we would always encourage drivers to do their research ahead of such a significant purchase to see which cars and brands they can trust,” Barber said.
Software bugs bug drivers
The most common faults raised by EV drivers in the survey were software problems, not motor or battery pack issues. There are also reliable, partly-electric cars available on the market today. Which?’s survey found that the most reliable cars of any fuel type are full hybrids, with just one in six (17%) owners reporting a fault among cars aged up to four years old.
The annual Which? car survey is one of the largest motorist surveys assessing car reliability in the UK, collecting detailed feedback from over 48,000 vehicle owners. The survey asked owners if there had been any faults with their cars in the 12 months prior to answering.