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EVs are the least reliable vehicle type: Consumer Reports points to some problem areas

In a reliability survey published last November, Consumer Reports named electric SUVs the least-reliable vehicle type. Now CR has followed that up with a report shedding light on specific problem areas.

On average, EVs have significantly higher problem rates than internal-combustion vehicles across model years 2019 and 2020, according to CR’s data. That improved somewhat for 2021, but certain models still showed high rates of problems, according to the report.

The most common EV problem areas were “in-car electronics, noises and leaks, power equipment, climate system, body hardware, drive system, and paint and trim,” the report said.

2019 Audi E-tron

A specific example of an “in-car electronics” failure was a display screen going blank in 2019 Audi E-Tron models, while problems with exterior door lights in the same model constituted a “power equipment” issue.

The report also pointed out “drive system” problems with the 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV that included “electrical failure, drive unit replacement, and other faulty components.”

Other examples involved Tesla vehicles, from failing temperature sensors in the 2020 Model S, to loose trim and mismatched paint on the 2020 Model Y. CR singled out the latter for “much worse than average” reliability last year.

2020 Tesla Model X

2020 Tesla Model X

Survey respondents also reported problems with seals and weatherstripping in the 2020 Model X, which can cause water leaks and wind noise. The Model X’s doors have presented issues from the start. In 2016, CEO Elon Musk said he was “not sure anyone should have built or designed this car, because it’s so difficult to make.”

In all cases, the important point is not just that these problems occur, but that they occur at a higher rate than in comparable internal-combustion vehicles. Despite that, CR found high rates of owner satisfaction, indicating that many EV owners aren’t too worried about reliability issues.

The same 2021 reliability survey also found that hybrids and plug-in hybrids cost less to maintain and repair. CR also noted that “most of these vehicles are built on proven systems,” which could be an advantage when it comes to reliability.


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