Electric vehicles less reliable due to newer technologies, Consumer Reports finds

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Electric vehicles are among the least reliable cars and trucks in the auto industry today, according to Consumer Reports rankings released Tuesday.

Compared to hybrid and gas-powered cars and trucks, all-battery electric vehicles were the worst-performing segment, aside from traditional full-size pickups, according to Consumer Reports.

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Reliability issues with electric vehicles were expected as most automakers, with the exception of early EV leader Tesla, have launched all-electric models in recent years, said Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports. He said companies have not had time to fix issues that affect reliability.

Since electric car buyers tend to be technology-loving early adopters, automakers also pack the models with a host of other features that can also lead to problems.

“The automakers are using EVs as a technology testbed for any new technology they want to try,” Fisher told TBEN. “Having all this new technology means there are a lot of potential problems with them.”

Consumer Reports surveyed owners of more than 300,000 vehicles from model years 2000 to 2022 and used that data to make predictions about the reliability of model year 2023 vehicles.

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Electric models had a larger share of the rankings than ever before. State and federal incentives and new environmental regulations have led to greater adoption of all-electric cars in and outside the US, largely to reduce air pollution from transportation.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charging a hybrid or all-electric vehicle can cause pollution at the power plant, but the total emissions from driving the cars are lower than gasoline-powered cars. Electric vehicles may also become “greener” over time as power from clean or renewable sources such as nuclear, solar and wind increases.

Hybrids perform well

The report covers 24 car brands with an established history. Of the 275 models in the report, only 11 models from seven brands were fully electric. Owners of more than 2,000 Tesla vehicles were surveyed.

At the top of the electric vehicle list was the Kia EV6, which was significantly above average. At the bottom of the electric car reliability ranking was the electric Hyundai Kona.

All-electric vehicles, many of which have been launched for the first time in recent years, made up a larger share of the list this year than ever before, but still represent only a small portion of the market.

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Unlike fully electric vehicles, hybrid cars and trucks were among the most reliable in the study. That’s largely because many hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, have been on the market for years, so automakers have been able to fix the problems.

“If you put in new technology, try new things and deviate from what is proven technology, you get more problems,” Fisher said.

At the top of this year’s brand reliability list were Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mazda and Honda – all above average reliability. Seven of the top 10 most trusted brands were from Japanese and Korean automakers. Lincoln is the only domestic brand in this year’s top 10.

Individual vehicle rankings by Consumer Reports were not immediately available.

Tesla

As an overall brand, Tesla has moved up four places in the reliability rankings compared to last year, but remained below average. Other brands with below-average reliability included Chevrolet, GMC, Volkswagen, Jeep, and Mercedes-Benz.

Fisher said Tesla is an “outlier” when it comes to electric powertrains compared to older automakers.

However, according to Steve Elek, program leader for automotive data analytics at Consumer Reports, Tesla owners continue to report problems with body hardware, paint and trim in their vehicles across all models.

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A man plugs his Tesla vehicle into a Tesla charging station in Santa Monica, California on September 22, 2022. Tesla is recalling more than 1 million vehicles in the US because the windows can trap someone’s fingers while being rolled up.

Allison Dinner | Getty Images

Elek said Tesla’s high-end sedan, the Model S, had steering and suspension issues, and the Model S and Model Y crossover utility vehicles both continue to have problems with air conditioning and heating systems.

The center touchscreen in Tesla vehicles continued to be problematic in the Tesla Model S and Model Y.

Selling fewer Model X vehicles, which have had problems in the past, also helped Tesla’s ranking, Fisher said. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has likened the Model X, an SUV with falcon-wing doors, to a “Faberge egg” due to the relatively large number of parts required to make the car.

The company’s entry-level sedan, the Model 3, was the only Tesla with an average reliability rating, while the Model S and Model Y scored below average.

Consumer Reports did not rate the reliability of driver assistance systems like Tesla’s Autopilot in its analysis.