How reliable are electric cars?

How reliable are electric cars?
How reliable are electric cars?

EVs, or electric vehicles, are cheap to run and they should be reliable too as they’re much simpler than conventional cars. But are they?

Electric cars are tempting more and more buyers with their low running costs and their gradually-increasing potential range from a full battery charge.

They’re still pretty expensive to buy, however, so other factors like reliability need to step up to the plate to convince anyone thinking of dipping their toes into the electric water (don’t try that at home by the way) that EVs represent decent value.

But are relatively simple EVs really as reliable as we perhaps think they ought to be?

In its 2017 Reliability Survey, What Car? magazine asked more than 14,000 people about any faults they had had with their cars (both electric and conventional) over the previous 12 months. Survey respondents were also asked how long those problems kept their vehicles off the road, and what the final repair bills were. Cars with the least number of problems (and the problems that were the least expensive to put right) were awarded higher marks than those that sat around for ages in repair workshops and/or generated scary bills.

Once all the results were in, each car was awarded a percentage score, 100 per cent being perfect. Some cars actually achieved that perfect score, and the top five in each category (city car, large SUVs etc) generally exceeded 80 per cent.

Here are the reliability scores for the four electric cars that were included in the survey, starting with the least reliable.

4. Tesla Model S

Score 52.4%
Nearly 38 per cent of Model S owners had experienced issues with their cars, distributed over a pretty even spread covering bodywork, interior trim and electric motors. Owners also reported broken outside door handles and faults with external lights. Although every Model S with a problem had it fixed under warranty, some cars were off the road for over a week.

3. Renault Zoe

Score 65.1%
Nearly 32 per cent of Zoes surveyed suffered problems, most commonly in the area of non-engine electrics like heaters and air-conditioning systems. Bodywork and charging system issues were reported too. As with the Teslas, all problems were fixed free of charge, though, and the majority of Zoes were out of the dealerships in under a week, though some still weren’t driveable after more than seven days in the workshop.

2. BMW i3

Score 88.5%
A much better performance from BMW’s EV, with under 12 per cent of i3s having a fault and most being mended at no cost in less than seven days. On the negative side, the problems tended to be in important areas like the battery, charge system, non-engine electrics and suspension.

1. Nissan Leaf

Score 93.9%
The most reliable EV covered in the What Car? survey was the Nissan Leaf with a very credible rating of 94 per cent. Faults occurred on less than 8 per cent of cars and were confined to three areas: bodywork, brakes and non-engine electrics. Every Leaf problem was fixed at no charge and usually under a week.

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