The truth behind the Which? survey that found EVs to be “unreliable”

A survey by Which? has found electric vehicles to be the least reliable fuel type, spending longer off the road than other cars when they need repairs.

Whilst the industry body has used the survey to rightly call for manufacturers to improve certain aspects of electric vehicles, the misleading headline and angle of the survey is sure to be used as another weapon against the EV market.

As the prospering electric vehicle market continues to battle against misinformation, it is important to analyze the context behind Which?’s survey.

The key figures reported are that, of cars up to four years old, nearly one in three EV owners reported one fault or more, compared to less than one in five petrol cars. The most common faults raised by EV drivers in the survey were software problems, not motor or battery pack issues.

These issues are not specific to electric cars, and perhaps one of the main reasons that these issues are being reported is simply as a result of electric cars featuring some of the most innovative, state-of-the-art pieces of technology and software seen in modern cars.

Even if problems are reported, the majority of EV manufacturers, including the likes of Volkswagen and Mercedes, rollout regular ‘over the air’ updates to improve the user experience in cars.

The survey also points out that owners of those faulty electric cars then went an average of just over five days without the use of their car while it was being fixed – compared to just three days for petrol cars.

This highlights the bigger issue of the skills gap facing the electric vehicle market, and the desperate need for more mechanics and technicians to support the booming growth of electric vehicles.

The industry has regularly called for more support to address this glaring issue, with research from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) finding that that 90,000 technicians will be needed to service the volume of zero-emissions vehicles predicted to be on UK roads by 2030.

The IMI has since called for on Government to commit £15 million in funding to support EV skills training for technicians, stating that the automotive retail sector does not currently have the skills and the pipeline of talent needed to service and repair electrified vehicles.

It is no wonder then those electric vehicles spend more time off the roads compared to petrol and diesel vehicles. Even when you look at the statistics from the survey, faulty EVs only spend an extra two days off the road longer than ICE vehicles. Not bad for an industry with a desperate shortage of technicians, competing against an automotive industry with over 70 years of heritage.

And still, after all of this, and out of all the cars on the market, it was an electric car that was found to be the most reliable.

Among cars four years old or less, the Kia e-Niro (2019- present), was found to be the most reliable EV and also the most reliable small or compact SUV of any fuel type – one of the most popular classes of car on the market.

Just one in every 17 e-Niro owners reported any kind of fault with their car and only one in 100 said their car had failed to start or broke down.

In its report, Which? says manufacturers need to gain the trust of drivers to encourage them to switch towards more sustainable cars. But surveys like this, with clickbait-y headlines, will do more harm than good to an industry that Which? supposedly supports.

In my mind, the headline from this survey is a cheap and lazy dig at the electric vehicle industry, which despite its undeniable growth, is still seen as an easy target.

I sincerely hope this survey, which has been reported on by most major news outlet, all with a similar top line, does not set back the electric vehicle market and put people off that would have otherwise made the sensible choice of switching to an electric vehicle.

If it does, however, then the electric vehicle industry will just have to do what it does best: break down barriers, destroy misinformation and outperform the soon to be extinct ICE vehicle market.

Want the latest Electric vehicle news in your inbox? Sign up to the free EV Powered email newsletter...

Charlie Atkinson

Editor for EV Powered, covering and reviewing all things electric.