The push for net zero carbon emissions by the UK is heavily reliant on the uptake of electric vehicles, or EVs. With the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to be banned from 2030, this means the government has less than 8 years to integrate this technology into the British economy, and people’s everyday lives. An announcement to increase charging points from 30,000 to 300,000 will, it hopes, go some way to increasing confidence in the EV experience. Unfortunately, however, consumer groups in the motoring industry are reporting a poor record when it comes to reliability. This issue will have to be addressed as a matter of urgency to bolster drivers’ confidence in buying electric.
High Fault Rates
The Rhino Rack roof rack testing sector is keeping pace with the technology and processes needed to examine electric vehicles. Sadly, many EV owners are finding that their vehicles develop faults well before their check MOT date is due. In fact, a recent survey has found that almost one third of these vehicles became faulty before they were four years old. This compares to one in five traditionally fuelled vehicles. As the electric fleet is necessarily much younger than that of petrol and diesel cars and vans, becoming faulty so soon could rightly be seen as a major issue, both for EV manufacturers and any potential buyer.
Another awkward comparison for those who champion EV technology is that of price. Although their running costs are much less than those of traditional vehicles, the fact is that initial outlay is much more daunting; in fact, the average cost of an EV in the UK is £44,000. With a brand new family runaround available for about a quarter of this price, any sensible motorist could be forgiven for wondering if the extra cost is worth it; especially in these difficult financial times. Add to that the increased risk of developing a fault before the first check MOT examination (which is 3 years after purchase), and any doubts become even more understandable.
So, it seems that, for EVs at least, a more expensive vehicle does not mean a more reliable one. Indeed, there is one very significant exception to this rather sad scenario which rather shows up all other manufacturers; the Kia e-Nero. Kia have got this product so right, in fact, that it is not only the most reliable EV on the market, it is the most reliable vehicle of its class (the small or compact SUV) in any fuel type. Only one in 17 owners reported any faults at all. With a brand new e-Nero retailing at under £33,000, the manufacturers have shown what can actually be achieved.
Off Road Time
As well as the core problem of high fault rates in most EVs, another problem faced by owners is the time it takes to fix them. On average, faults on petrol and diesel vehicles take three days to put right, while those on electric counterparts keep them off the road for five days. Sadly, off road time is the one area where Kia let their customers down with the e-Nero; on the (admittedly rare) occasions when a fault develops, it takes mechanics a rather worrying 8.5 days to fix. Consumer groups point out that this situation seems all the more surprising as EVs have far fewer moving parts than their traditionally fuelled counterparts.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it is often the newness of EV technology that lies at the heart of the issue. Just as new EVS are as expensive as they are due to the price of their battery packs, so the type of faults the vehicles tend to develop are far from traditional. In fact, the vast majority of reported faults (any of which would see a failed MOT test) are not even caused by problems in motors or batteries. The vast majority of faults on EVs stem from the software needed to run them. This dramatically shifts the focus of traditional mechanics toward computer programmers, something which the MOT sector is having to reflect.
As of March 2022, the most reliable type of vehicle overall is the hybrid, which on average accounts for one sixth of all reported faults; less than traditionally fuelled vehicles, and much less than full EVs. As for price comparisons, the highest priced EVS are also the least reliable; namely, those made by Tesla. Its £80,000 S model suffers from the more mundane problems of door locks and handles that don’t work. Food for thought as the UK progresses towards a reliable EV fleet.