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The most common problems with electric cars

We look at the data and the downsides of EVs.
The most common problems with electric cars
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.

As people become more concerned about the environment and climate change, electric cars are growing in popularity. There are now almost 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 are becoming more popular, but they’re still far outweighed by traditional non-electric vehicles. 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 [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.

6 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 [3].

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 [4]. 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 [5].

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

2. Batteries are highly reactive

Concerns have been raised over the safety of batteries used in electric cars. Lithium-ion batteries are used thanks to their high power and energy density, as well as their long cycle life [6]. But they’re also highly reactive — so they can pose a safety risk.

Lithium-ion batteries must operate within certain temperature and voltage limits. If they exceed these, the battery may stop working effectively. In a worst case scenario, it could catch fire or explode [7].

While there are hypothetical dangers to using lithium-ion batteries in EVs, it’s worth noting that very few serious incidents connected to EV batteries have actually been reported [8].

3. EV climate control can reduce range

Electric climate control systems have been shown to decrease the range of the vehicle if they’re inefficient. Low-power heat pumps, in particular, take longer to reach the optimum temperature, sapping energy in the process [9].

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.

4. 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 [10]. They’ve also recalled cars to tackle widespread automatic window problems [11].

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 [6]. So any electronic sensor issues must be flagged and fixed quickly.

5. 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.

6. Electric cars are prone to hacking

Just like any other WiFi-enabled device, internet-connected electric vehicles are vulnerable to cyber threats. One technique, known as Brokenwire, has already proven successful at hacking EV charging systems to abort charging from a distance [13]. The hack has been disclosed to make drivers aware of this problem — but it could still be used by criminals to extort money in return for your car’s charging functionality.

As EVs become more popular, drivers can expect more cyber threats to emerge, compromising the performance and security of their car. To make sure you’re fully protected, always install software updates as soon as they’re available.

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 2022:

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

Test 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. Car subscription providers like EZOO and elmo specialise in electric cars, go check them out!

Browse all cars available on subscription

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