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The most common problems with electric cars

We look at the data and the downsides of EVs.
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Summary
  • Many drivers report reliability issues with their electric cars — but for the first time, the EV problem rate is lower than the non-EV problem rate.
  • Battery issues, climate control, and in-car electronics are among the biggest problems in electric vehicles.
  • Electric car subscriptions allow you to test an EV before you buy, so you can check reliability first-hand.
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As people become more concerned about the environment and climate change, electric cars are growing in popularity. There are now over 750,000 electric cars on the road in the UK [1]

Electric cars are far more eco-friendly than traditional vehicles, while still competing on performance and economy. But many people are still concerned about the drawbacks of electric cars, which may slow or stall a more widespread adoption of EVs.

In this article, we’ll examine the downside of electric cars, including reliability and common issues.

Why are people against electric cars?

Electric cars have become far more popular in recent years, with sales up a staggering 40 per cent in 2022. Electric car myths continue to circulate, spreading misinformation about electric vehicles that may put drivers off. Plus, change is always hard-fought, so it’s understandable that there’s still some resistance to switching to electric cars.

Many people cite unreliability as a key disadvantage of electric cars. So just how reliable are electric vehicles in comparison to non-EVs?

How reliable are electric cars?

Electric car owners have the highest owner satisfaction rating of all car owners. But despite this, drivers report significant reliability issues with their electric vehicles. A report published in 2022 concluded that electric SUVs were the least reliable cars on the road [2]. But despite this, drivers report significant reliability issues with their electric vehicles. Electric SUVs are currently ranked as the least reliable car type.

However, year-on-year data suggests that while there are still some reliability issues with electric cars, this is improving. The problem rate in most areas has fallen since 2019 [2]:

EV reliability problem rates and top problem areas

Do electric cars have more issues than non-EVs?

While many drivers report issues with their electric cars, in 2021, the overall problem rate was actually lower for EVs than ICE vehicles for the first time [2]:

Ev reliability data deep dive.

Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts than non-EVs, so they’re already less vulnerable to mechanical issues than regular cars. And as electric vehicle technology advances, electric cars are likely to become more reliable.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the bad things about electric cars, and whether these problems should prevent you from buying an EV right now. By the way, we've covered the reasons why an EV may not charge.

5 common problems with electric cars

1. Battery degradation over time

One key disadvantage of electric cars is the battery life. Like all batteries, the capacity decreases over time. Researchers suggest battery capacity decreases by approximately 2.3% every year.

Battery longevity is highly dependent on temperature. One study found that in Florida, where temperatures are high, batteries last for 5.2 years on average. In Alaska’s cold climate, they could last up to 13.3 years.

But other evidence suggests that EV batteries are actually lasting much longer than originally thought. Industry experts believe that in many instances, the battery will actually outlast the car itself.

Check out our EV glossary guide if you find any of the terms unclear.

2. EV climate control can reduce range

Electric climate control systems have been shown to decrease the range of the vehicle if they’re inefficient.

This is a particular problem when the car starts at a low ambient temperature. So in winter, drivers are likely to see less efficiency in their car heating systems.

While the climate control systems in petrol and diesel cars are generally no more efficient, they have the benefit of vast amounts of waste heat to warm the cabin.

3. In-car electronics failure

From failing temperature sensors to faulty electric doors, many EV drivers have complained of problems with their in-car electronics. In May 2022, Tesla issued a recall due to a display screen fault affecting four car models. They’ve also recalled cars to tackle widespread automatic window problems.

Some of these issues are irritating, but won’t compromise your ability to drive the car safely. However, other electronics — such as temperature sensors — are critical for ensuring your battery is operating within safe limits. So any electronic sensor issues must be flagged and fixed quickly.

It’s worth noting that many of these issues are related to individual brands or models that happen to be electric. They’re not really EV-specific problems as such.

4. Faulty seals lead to leakage

Anecdotal reports suggest that faulty seals are a problem for electric cars, particularly among Tesla drivers [12]. Faulty seals won’t stop water from getting into the car, which can be hazardous when there are lots of electrical components to consider.

Poor sealing can also lead to excessive noise in the car, as well as draughts and air leakage — another disadvantage of some electric car models. This can make the drive a lot less comfortable and enjoyable.

5. Electric cars catch fire … or do they?

This one is a bit of a myth. Current data suggests that, despite rumours to the contrary, EVs are no more likely to catch fire than their petrol or diesel counterparts.

However, there is a bit of a caveat to that statement. Once alight, a lithium-ion battery can be extremely difficult to extinguish – so much so that some manufacturers have advised firefighters to let the car burnout in a controlled manner rather than attempt to put out the blaze.

The risks involved remain incredibly small, however. We don’t believe this should be a factor in whether anyone chooses an EV.

The most reliable EVs

While there are still some technical teething problems for EVs, there are still many reliable electric cars on the road. Here are the most reliable electric cars in 2024:

Car Reliability rating Reported problems
Nissan Leaf 98.9% Brakes, non-motor electrics 
MG ZS EV 95.5% Battery, steering, bodywork, non-motor electrics
Volkswagen e-Golf 94.7% Infotainment system, non-motor electrics, motor electrics

Drive an electric car on a subscription

If you’re worried about EV reliability, it’s a good idea to try an electric car before you commit to buying one. Electric car subscriptions allow you to hire a car for as long as you like, so you can test out the functionality and alleviate any reliability concerns before you make a purchase.

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