Consumer Reports On Electric Vehicle Reliability: “In General, Electric Cars Have Been Stellar”

3 years ago by Eric Loveday 23

Consumer Reports Selects Tesla Model S as "Best Overall" Automobile of 2014

Consumer Reports Selects Tesla Model S as “Best Overall” Automobile of 2014

Consumer Reports Logo

Consumer Reports Logo

“In general, electric cars have been stellar,” Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports told Design News.

Stellar in regards to what?  Reliability, of course.

“The fact that they don’t have to carry around a gas engine or conventional transmission tends to make them pretty reliable.”

Adds Fisher.

In its annual reliability survey of 1.1 million vehicles, Consumer Reports stated that it expects “reliability of new models to be 60% above average” for the Nissan LEAF and that the Tesla Model S fared well, despite problems with squeaks, rattles, body hardware and door handles that don’t always pop out.  The Model S scored well in the areas that matter most, including drive system, electrical system, suspension, brakes, paint and so on.

Design News notes:

“To be sure, feedback on pure electrics is still sparse, with the Ford Focus EV, Chevy Spark EV, Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Toyota RAV4 EV failing to appear in the survey because of insufficient data. Early indications, however, point to pure EVs having a reliability advantage over hybrids and conventional vehicles, at least for now.”

And Fisher concludes:

“The electric vehicle looks good from a maintenance and reliability standpoint.  There’s just less to worry about.”

Source: Design News

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23 responses to "Consumer Reports On Electric Vehicle Reliability: “In General, Electric Cars Have Been Stellar”"

  1. QCO says:

    That’s quite a powerful statement considering many early EVs have suffered from software bugs due to their high reliance on automation. Consumers Reports has been very hard on software bugs (My-Ford-Touch comes to mind), but clearly the EV mechanical simplicity has trumped any software issues.

    Presumably as EV software matures the reliability will be even higher.

    1. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      It doesn’t hurt that software issues should be far less difficult and expensive to install, vs replacing mechanical or electrical bits.

    2. Dave R says:

      It’s also interesting considering that Tesla seems to have frequent issues that require fairly frequent drivetrain and/or battery pack replacement.

      There have been multiple owners who have had multiple drivetrain / battery pack swapouts.

  2. MDEV says:

    I am not aware of software issues in Tesla or Leaf that has not been address promptly, I guess this make the difference.

    1. scott franco says:

      I am. The charger software on the Leaf has been continually buggy. They have yet to deliver a fully working version.

      1. scott franco says:

        I guess I should expand on that a bit. I do software for power meters (that thing on the wall that measures your electric power). We test our software to amazing levels, and our software has amazing complexity (1 MB plus).

        We put that much emphasis in testing because our customers, the power companies, consider software faults in the field unacceptable. If Windows computer customers were as demanding about quality concerns, the desktop software business would be very different today. How many Windows users are even aware that it is possible to produce %99.999 bug free software?

        1. Dan says:

          Good. Cheap. Fast.
          Pick two.

          The old axiom applies to “99.999% bug free” software as well as it does to anything else. I’m sure you don’t charge $20 per license for your 99.999% bug-free software.

  3. Thomas J. Thias says:

    Great to see Tesla Motors taking Consumers Reports number one spot in owner satisfaction.

    The Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle steps asside this year after holding this honor for the last two years running.

    We pass the baton!

    “In past years, CR’s survey showed that“green” fuel-efficient cars, including electrics, hybrids, and fuel-sipping diesels, have also done well as a class in owner satisfaction, even though they aren’t known for outstanding comfort or engaging performance. Especially notable is the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which finished first in 2011 and 2012 surveys. It slipped to third this time, but its score of 91 was only one point lower than last year’s. Volt owners continue to love the car about as much now as three years ago, suggesting that the Volt has some staying power beyond its novelty.”

    Link Goes To Inside EVs Article-

    http://insideevs.com/tesla-model-s-tops-consumer-reports-customer-satisfaction-survey-by-scoring-99-out-of-100-points/

    Best-

    Thomas J. Thias

    517-749-0532

    Twitter.com/AmazingChevVolt

  4. ffbj says:

    To me this is one of the big though often it seems under appreciated aspects of ev’s. Also this quality of ev’s should only get better over time. The gap between ev’s and ice’s in regards to maintenance will get wider over the life of the vehicles.

  5. SeattleTeslaGuy says:

    This is an important point going forward and has many implications. First off, the cost of annual maintenance will be much lower for an EV though the battery life is a wild card and replacement could overwhelm the savings in other areas.

    Also, in the longer term, this spells problems for auto repair, maintenance and spare parts industries as EVs come to dominate. (We can argue when but it’s coming. Even 10% market share will have an impact.) For example, oil changes places will have to adapt or die.

    1. Thomas J. Thias says:

      Hi, SeattleTeslaGuy!

      You said, “This is an important point going forward and has many implications. First off, the cost of annual maintenance will be much lower for an EV though the battery life is a wild card and replacement could overwhelm the savings in other areas.”

      Lower cost maintenence? Yup, almost non exhistant. This is why dealers snear when you call them the Maytag Repair Man when it comes to Electric Fueled Vehicles.

      I do take exception to your traction battery concerns.

      For instance, the State of California mandates that all C.A.R.B ZEV and PZEV compliant vehicle must have a traction Battery warranty no less then 10 years and 150,000 miles.

      It’s like this to me. If you have a 12 year old son, by the time this warranty expires your son is liable to be in grad school or you may be a Grand Father!

      I try and not, as a rule, worry way into the future…

      Especially a future whose transportation sector wonders will be truely stunning by then…

      If Elon and Carlos have their way.

      …And you will hear about it here! LOL

      Best-

      Thomas J. Thias

      517-749=0532

      Twitter.com/AmazingChevVolt

      1. SparkEVDriver says:

        You said “For instance, the State of California mandates that all C.A.R.B ZEV and PZEV compliant vehicle must have a traction Battery warranty no less then 10 years and 150,000 miles.”

        I have found where this applies to PZEV’s but not to ZEV’s. When I purchased my Spark EV in California, the window sticker stated 8 years 100,000 miles. I asked the dealer who contacted Chevrolet and was told that my warranty for the battery is 8 years 100,000 miles.

        I would love to find documentation showing my warranty is actually longer.

  6. Spec9 says:

    Yeah, this is something that EV enthusiasts often point to but hadn’t yet been conclusively proved. And now we have hard data proving it.

  7. scott franco says:

    Pretty much all technologies where the power application and the power creation are separate result in high reliability. The examples are:

    1. Electric motors.

    2. Air driven equipment (pneumatic wrench, jackhammer, etc.).

    3. Hydraulic equipment (hydraulic motors and actuators).

    The causes are probably lower complexity and smaller range of function. However, there are counter examples. A jet engine has reliability orders of magnitude above gas engines, and probably approaches that of electric engines.

    We faced the problem of increasing the reliability of mechanical actuators and motors in the disc drive industry. Todays disc drives deliver stunning performance and reliability numbers. It was done by reducing the complexity of the mechanics (todays drives feature only one motor and one actuator; brushless DC motors dramatically reduced the complexity of the motor), and reducing the friction of the mechanics, in some cases to effectively zero (air bearings). That last one is doubly interesting if you think about watches. They switched to jeweled movements that don’t need lubrication and have next to zero friction. The result were mechanical watches of amazing reliability.

    1. SeattleTeslaGuy says:

      All good points. One thing that factors in is that the most of the examples you cite are significantly less complex than a modern ICE vehicle. It has numerous complex systems: lubrication, cooling, fuel management, exhaust, emission control, transmission, electrical with lots of moving parts. Many of which don’t exist in a BEV. When a BEV has a similar system, it is usually considerably simpler (transmission, for example).

      As to the jet engine example, I think it is a very good one though the reliability comes at an extreme cost (or perhaps I should say the reliability engineering is justified by the cost).

      1. RedLeafBlueLeaf says:

        Jet engines have preventative maintenance performed after every flight. Makes a difference.

        1. scott franco says:

          All turbine engines have basic simplicity in common. It is not all maintenance.

  8. Peter Harrison says:

    A little off subject, but I have driven family and friends crazy with by obsession with the Tesla Model S. I do see the EV as the future but have to say as incredible as the Tesla is, if only for that much money it had more rear legroom and headroom and cup holders! And the front seats a little more comfortable on long trips. As a retiree, I have been trying to muster enough money to purchase one for somewhile. But these shortcomings may help curb my cravings. At least for a little while 🙂 I currently drive a Avalon Ltd Hybrid, which I love …. If only it were a BEV.

  9. LEAFER says:

    Its a shame Toyota doesnt build an Avalon plug in hybrid with 20-25 miles of AER.

    1. Thomas J. Thias says:

      Sure is a shame but Toyota never engineered and mass produced a long range PHEV due to lack of the Intellectual Property and inhouse mechanics to do so.

      The Toyota Uplander with Tesla Motors Guts, now ended.*

      The Toyota Prius Plug-In with the EPA certified 6 mile electric only range with up to 11+ miles of electric plus gasoline.

      (See footnotes on Toyota Prius Plug-In page)

      *This may all change as Inside EVs has reported that Tesla Motors is in discussion with BMW and Nissan due to its stuning IP release last week.

      Is Toyota next?

      Best-

      Thomas J. Thias

      517-749-0532

      Twitter.com/amazingChevVolt

      1. Spec9 says:

        Oh C’mon. Toyota certainly has the skills & IP to make a nice PHEV. They have just CHOSEN not to do so. I maintain that it is largely because they don’t want to cannibalize profitable sales of conventional hybrids.

        1. QCO says:

          Yep…. Toyota simply does not believe in BEVs (for now).

        2. Thomas J. Thias says:

          Spec9 says, “Oh C’mon. Toyota certainly has the skills & IP to make a nice PHEV. They have just CHOSEN not to do so. I maintain that it is largely because they don’t want to cannibalize profitable sales of conventional hybrids.”

          Toyota says:

          What Toyota Chairman Uchiyamada said, summer, 2012 –

          “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.”

          What Toyota Chairman Uchiyamada really meant…

          The current capabilities of OUR electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.

          Back Story:
          2012 was supposed to be the year the all-electric version of the Toyota/Scion iQ made a splash. Instead, it appears that while it remains technically true that the iQ EV will launch this year, it will be a much, much smaller splash than previously anticipated.

          According to Reuters, the iQ will have an “extremely limited release.”

          That’s a kind way to say that the 100 iQ EVs that Reuters says Toyota will now sell in the U.S. and Japan is a much smaller figure than was anticipated.

          The writing has been on the wall for a while. All the way back in 2009, Toyota hinted that the EV, which can only go 50 miles on a charge, might be destined for car-sharing services, and in 2011, a Toyota spokesperson confirmed the iQ EV would be a “low-volume vehicle.”

          Link Goes To Toyota Best Shot. The Home Brewed Toyota/Scion iQ BEV-

          http://www.autoblog.com/2012/09/24/toyota-kills-plans-for-widespread-iq-ev-sales-after-misreading-d/

          Best-

          Thomas J. Thias