Electric cars are far less reliable than petrol vehicles, study finds

Electric vehicles are far less reliable, on average, than petrol cars, trucks and SUVs, according to a new study of 330,000 vehicle owners.

US publication Consumer Reports surveyed owners of cars built between 2021 and 2023, along with a small number of 2024 models, and found electric cars had 80 per cent more problems than cars propelled by internal combustion engines (ICE).

Among the most frequently reported troubles were battery and charging system issues as well as flaws in how the vehicles´ body panels and interior parts fit together.

Over the three model years, EVs had 79 per cent more problems than ICE cars, while plug-in hybrids had 146 per cent more issues.

Consumer reports found that EV vehicles had 12 potential problem areas, while hybrids had 19, plug-in hybrids had 20 and ICE vehicles had 17.

But the study also found that despite new EV cars having simpler drivetrains, petrol vehicles had been finely tuned over the years to be highly reliable.

A new study has found electric cars are less reliable than petrol vehicles which the authors attributed to them having yet to work out the kinks in new systems (pictured a Tesla Model 3)

The magazine and website noted that EV manufacturers are still learning to construct completely new systems, and it suggested that as they do, the overall reliability of electric vehicles should improve.

‘This story is really one of growing pains,’ said Jake Fisher, senior director at Consumer Reports.

 ‘It’s a story of working out the bugs and the kinks of new technology.’

Still it noted lingering concerns about reliability will likely add to the issues that give many buyers pause when considering a switch to the new technology like higher costs, long charging times and access to charging stations.

The study found the only electric vehicle type to exceed ICE vehicles in reliability at 26 per cent fewer problems was the conventional hybrid, which uses both electric and petrol systems as opposed to the plug-in hybrid which only uses the petrol motor as a backup.

Out of the hybrid vehicles, Toyota performed well with its Camry, Highlander and RAV4 models along with the UX and NX hybrids from its luxury Lexus arm. 

With the plug-in hybrids the standout was the Kia Sportage.

The Kia Sportage (pictured) was one of the better performing plug-in hybrids, which use a petrol motor as a backup should the electric motor run out of charge

According to Consumer Reports, owners of electric vehicles including the Ford F-150 Lightning, Mustang Mach-E, Genesis GV60, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia Niro EV, Volkswagon ID.4, Suburu Solterra and Toyota bZ4X have reported problems.

Among the most reliable automakers identified by the report were Lexus in the top spot, Toyota in second, and Mini in third.

Tesla was mid-pack but Mr Fisher said it found itself in the ‘sweet spot’ on the EV market.

The highest selling EV in Australia is the Tesla Model 3, which was also the second highest selling passenger sedan on the market regardless of fuel type.

EV sales in the country more than tripled in the first nine months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

Between January 1 and September 30 65,743 electric cars were registered on Australian roads.

Among the EV owners who explained problems with their vehicles to Consumer Reports was Michael Coram of Lockport, New York, in the US. 

In July, intent on reducing his commuting costs, Coram bought a 2023 Chevrolet Bolt electric SUV, attracted by its sporty handling. 

Coram, 44, a heating and air conditioning technician, said he ran into one annoying problem: On a chilly day in mid-November, his Bolt wouldn’t shift into drive.

Eventually, after Coram had turned the car on and off 10 or 12 times, the problem fixed itself, and he hasn’t experienced it since. 

Other owners on a Bolt social media forum told Coram that he might have shifted into drive before the SUV’s computer had finished its startup sequence.

In addition, owners of Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 EV reported battery and charging issues related to a charging control computer, which, in some cases, caused the vehicles to stall.

Rivian, an upstart manufacturer of electric pickup trucks and SUVs, had trouble getting body panels to line up correctly and with broken interior parts, Fisher said.

Tesla, the EV sales leader, which now has years of experience building vehicles, showed improvement in reliability, Fisher said. 

This was largely because a high proportion of Tesla’s sales involve the relatively small and less-expensive Model Y SUV and Model 3 cars. 

Those are simpler to build and lack the glitch-prone new technology that Telsa offers in its more expensive vehicles, the Models S and X.

Toyota, which has heavily invested in conventional hybrid technology, was the best performing brand along with its luxury arm Lexus

Tesla ranked 14th out of 30 automotive brands in the 2023 survey, up from 19th in 2022.

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, was the most reliable in the survey, followed by Toyota, Mini, Acura and Honda. 

The five lowest-ranking brands were Jeep, Volkswagen, Rivian, Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler.

The most reliable segment of the market was compact cars, followed by sportscars, small pickups, midsize and large cars, luxury midsize and large cars. 

Electric cars, electric SUVs, full-size pickups, midsize pickups, and electric pickups had the worst reliability.

Consumer Reports says its survey of subscribers, representing 330,000 vehicles.

It asked owners of vehicles from the 2000 through 2023 model years, with a smattering of 2024 models, about problems they had experienced in the previous 12 months.

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