These 5 Electric Cars Have The Worst Reliability, Says Consumer Reports

NOV 15 2018 BY VANJA KLJAIC 82

Yes, Tesla is on that list, but so too is Chevy, Ford and Honda.

For electric cars, the way we gauge reliability has always been a bit skewed. After all, most of the models available on the market today, didn’t really exist until a few years back. Pair that with the well-known sympathy towards newcomers on the block, and you’ve got a pretty untrustworthy conclusion about EV reliability.

However, with the advent of newer generation EVs, more of the same actually being delivered & daily driven by owners, and we’re getting to a point where we can actively and objectively gauge EV reliability. And that, for some electric vehicles, isn’t all that good.

While many consider Tesla the king of the EV world – and many will agree – there are a few problems that have been plaguing the vehicles coming out of the Fremont, California facility in recent years. Furthermore, the fan-favorites like the Chevrolet Volt – a plug-in hybrid – also experienced several issues in the recent few years. Other carmakers weren’t immune either.

This is where a list compiled by The Cheat Sheet – a website dedicated to providing audiences the information they want in an approachable, entertaining way – comes in handy. It gives a wider audience a look into EV reliability through a Consumer Reports study, taking into account the opinion of several EV owners. And by the looks of things, the list shows us that even the unicorns in the world of cars aren’t exempt from infancy problems.

Unfortunately, for most of the Tesla fanbase, the ‘Electric Cars Rated Worst for Reliability in 2019 by Consumer Reports’ is topped by a Tesla, the Model X. According to the report, there are several problems with the vehicle, such as the cabin electronics, the drive system, body integrity, and climate control. Only the heavy-duty Ram pickup (a work truck) scored lower in the owner reliability survey for 2019. While this clearly didn’t put a knock into Tesla sales, it does give the company some items to resolve in the future.

The Tesla Model X is followed by the Honda Clarity (including the PHEV version), citing owner reported issues with the cabin temperature sensor and the key fob along with warning lights that went on/off without reason.

Furthermore, the list contains the Ford Focus Electric in the 3rd spot, followed by the Chevrolet Volt. Finally, the 5th most unreliable electric vehicle according to the list is the Tesla Model S.

You can grab a detailed view of the list right here.

Categories: Buying Advice, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Lists, Tesla

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82 Comments on "These 5 Electric Cars Have The Worst Reliability, Says Consumer Reports"

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ModernMarvelFan

That is one list that no manufacturer would want to have any representation, certainly not more than once for sure.

Viking79

Take it with a grain of salt. The Clarity PHEV for example. It rates just slightly better than the X, as one of the worst EVs, but having owned one for the past year and put 25,000 miles on it the problems are new car teething pains. I expect the car to be very reliable long term once the issues are sorted.

That being said, it has had 3 repairs in a year, more than any other new or nearly new car I have owned, but I don’t regret buying it or anything. So I agree with CRs ranking, but it isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Jimc066

Agree with this – i have 16K on my Clarity with no issues (minus a SW update to fix the fuel gauge estimates). The car seems well built and i’m a very happy owner. I care about engine longevity, costly repairs, etc. Some of the issues reported by CR in their recent version of 10 most unreliable cars just don’t add up to me. I am starting to lose faith in their ability to collect and report meaningful statistical data

I also own a 2017 Volt, again with no issues. 44K on that Car and very happy i own that one too

REXisKing

Would be nice to know Consumer Report sample sizes.
I’m guessing very small.

Counterpoint

They get roughly 200,000 survey results every year. If results are proportional to the percentages of cars sold, I’d guess they have roughly 70-80 responses each for the Model S & X.

TheWay

The problem with Consumer Reports data is that they don’t particularly look at the levels of the issues but simply if they visited to get service. For example, Tesla sent a notification for service on the Model S which was an error and people visited the service center. That hurts their score.

Tesla also does a bunch of goodwill upgrades, which also hurts your score.

America First

Their surveys are from their subscribers, which is not a true arbitrary sample.

David Cary

Are you saying bunch of old farts?

Narg

Also look at the NHTSA site https://www.nhtsa.gov/ and you’ll see very similar results. And, that’s not small at all.

Davek

Well FWIW, Tesla is represented on both this list AND on the list of MOST reliable cars. In fact (and I find it hard to wrap my head around this, unless they only looked at about 9 cars in total), the Tesla Model S alone made both lists!
https://insideevs.com/top-5-most-reliable-electric-cars-2018/
Figure that one out…

Warren

And this site put the i3 below on that list,lol.

Viking79

My i3 has been 0 trouble in 10,000 miles, not long, but fewer repair trips than my Honda in the same time period.

Unplugged

The Focus Electric is on the list, but there have not been enough Electrics sold to determine reliability. Instead, the Cheat Sheet uses the gas Focus. Right. They cite problems with the engine (hmm), the transmission (yup), and related electronics.

Having owned two flawless (except for that dreaded Stop Safely Now issue other owners experienced) Focus Electrics, I can feel confident in recommending the car as a used vehicle. Software issues with the Electric have long been resolved. (Wonderful Ford doesn’t build the FFE anymore.)

Warren

My i3 has had zero problems. My Focus was lemon lawed.

earl colby pottinger

This is what I am wondering. Is CR using the wrong methods for BEVs by using the same methods/equipment that they use on ICE cars?

You gave great examples, how is there an engine problem in a BEV or Transmission problems in a car that does not have a transmission just a gear box?

JohnR

I have a MX, i3 and X5, no trouble from the EVs only from the x5, what a nightmare, never again will I buy an ICE. $1k here $4k there, etc etc etc, ICE vehicles are a money drain. Maybe if you take my MX at 100k$ you could make the point of me paying for it up front, but it’s the hassle of dealing with and the frustration from the breakdowns. I’ll take panels not being aligned exactly over transfer case, cooling system, turbo, so on and so on.

TomArt

Model X: “Problems reported with cabin electronics, the drive system, body integrity, and climate control have dinged its rating over the years.” Funny, nothing about the Falcon doors!

I am confused about the term “body integrity.” What is that? Rattles? This category makes no sense to me in terms of a measure of “reliability”. If there is a reliability problem, then that means that something malfunctions. How can a car body malfunction??? Body panels falling off? Crunch zones not crumpling properly?

agzand

Body integrity could be falcon doors. Big openings generally reduce body integrity, resulting in issues like misaligned panels and sticking doors.

TomArt

OK, if that category includes the functioning of car doors, hatches, hood, sunroof, etc., then that makes sense.

amt

Let Alone the High Cost of Manufacture …For the Integrity Compromise Reasons Alone, They should be Discontinued…

antrik

From the Consumer Reports site: “BODY INTEGRITY (noises & leaks): Squeaks, rattles, wind noises, loose or cracked seals and/or weather-stripping, air and water leaks.”

By that description, it *could* include malfunctioning door seams etc. — but on the other hand, doors generally seem to fall in a different category: “BODY HARDWARE: Power or manual windows, locks and latches, tailgate, hatch or trunk, doors or sliding doors, mirrors, seat controls, safety belts, sunroof, convertible top, and glass defect.”

Todd

Rattles is a tough one. I have this one quiet intermittent rattle in my 3 – not consistent enough for me to demonstrate it for service. But I can only hear it because there’s no engine noise. If I were in an ICE car I would never know it was there. So it’s hard to know if the body is loose, or if the bar for noise is different.

Kbm3

Me too. I’m having service because of a rock hitting the glass roof and am hoping they can fix the rattles, but the intermittent nature doesn’t give me much hope.

Threader

Timely new article. My 2017 Volt 1.5 years old 30,000+ miles just had its first Check Engine light come on today.

Vexar

It’s on a countdown set by the dealership. You can ignore it. So glad my car doesn’t feature that gag. If it gets to you, put some black electrical tape over the light bulb.

Pushmi-Pullyu

“…the well-known candor towards newcomers on the block…”

Is there an editor in the house?

I don’t know what word the writer meant, but I’m pretty sure “candor” was not it.

Big Show

*rancor?

Dimitrij

“Can Door” attitude 😛

Jon

Did they use the ICE Focus to draw conclusions about the EV Focus? Doesn’t make sense.

antrik

“Since Focus Electric has fewer parts to malfunction, the EV version won’t turn out as bad as gas-powered models, but it’s not a safe bet, according to buyers.”

Unplugged

What the hell does “according to buyers” mean? It looks like they just pulled that comment out of their butts. There aren’t enough “buyers” to come to a conclusion.

According to this buyer, having owned two FFEs, I can easily recommend the Electric version.

Unplugged

It’s quite ignorant to compare a gas car to an electric. Because there aren’t enough Electrics to reach a conclusion, the Cheat Sheet uses the gas Focus. Right. They cite problems with the engine (hmm), the transmission (yup), and related electronics.

The lesson should be that the two cars aren’t comparable. Don’t bootstrap a gas experience into an electric one.

Pushmi-Pullyu

“…the well-known candor towards newcomers on the block…”

Is there an editor in the house?

I don’t know what word the writer meant, but I’m pretty sure “candor” was not it. Possibly “rancor”?
#GrammarNazi

robus

I find Consumer Reports to be very conservative in their thinking. They’ll prioritize number of cup holders over clean energy.

BroncoBet

You aren’t using conservative properly.

robus

I dunno, their reviews seem oriented to a conservative buyer that favors the status quo over new tech.

R.S

An EV doesn’t produce green energy, it just consumes energy, like any other car. And while they can recoup their increased carbon emissions in manufacturing, through being more efficient on the road, they won’t if they only last 100k miles, especially if they have an aluminum body like many EVs do.

So reliability and durability is important, from an energy conservation standpoint.

And CR doesn’t favor cup holders, otherwise the Model S wouldn’t have gotten such a good test score (besides reliability), they value reliability, like most consumers out there, over brand identity, though.

antrik

Yet the EV that tends to last among the shortest — the Nissan Leaf — gets top scores…

The reliability rating is about the total number of issues people experience — the vast majority of them being minor. If it was about long-term durability, the ranking would look very different.

(Also, you 100,000 miles number is way off. Unless charging from the most dirty grids, savings dwarf energy used in production much faster than that.)

Viking79

Depends on a lot of factors, battery size (main contributor to increased production emissions), grid mix, etc. I suppose balance is achieved after 2 to 10 years.

Engineering Explained addresses the issue pretty fairly:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RhtiPefVzM

R.S
Sure, durability isn’t the same as reliability, but it’s usually linked. What you are talking about is battery durability and in that case things like active cooling can really help durability, if you have a reliable car. But since minor issues increase over time and batteries last longer and longer, most EVs will move to the junkyard not for battery related reasons. Just to have an example here: A Model X battery might last 500k miles, but will the FW doors? The 100k miles weren’t meant to be the break even point for EVs CO2, but rather that a car that’s dead after 100k miles, EV or not (but especially EVs) is less efficient than a comparable car that lasts 300k miles. And especially with EVs batteries, aluminum or carbon fiber parts, but also the car in general, CO2 “cost” of production is an important part to think about. So a car that is still economical to run at 400k miles is greener, than the same car that is just too expensive to keep repairing after 200k miles. (Again, just example numbers here. I know there are 200k+ Model S) And since most cars are junked once repair costs are… Read more »
antrik

I don’t think minor issues increase over time. Certainly not to a level where people would junk the car because of them.

Windydrew

How do you figure an aluminum body won’t last 100k? Pretty sure my 2nd Gen Prius will disagree with it’s 250k miles racked up and counting. Are those aluminum f150s also going to last only 100k before falling apart? Pretty sure there’s more AL f150s out there already than all the EVs in the world…..

Pushmi-Pullyu

Shocking to see the Chevy Volt on this list. In the past, the Volt 1.0 was praised for superb engineering and exceptionally low rate of reported problems in the powertrain.

However, more recent reports suggest the Volt 2.0 isn’t as reliable. Perhaps that is the cause of its appearance on this list?

Or maybe it’s a sign that Consumer Reports‘ automobile reliability ratings… are themselves not reliable. This certainly isn’t the first indication that’s true.

Anybody remember the bizarre case of CR giving a “Poor” reliability rating to the 2015 Tesla Model S, despite earning a “Fair” rating in only one single category, and all the other categories having “Excellent”, “Very Good” or “Good” ratings?

comment image

CR “dinging” the Honda Clarity PHEV also does not seem to match the experiences shared in the very extensive posting in the Clarity section of the IEVs Forum. I realize that forum posts are anecdotal evidence… but that’s a pretty high volume of anecdotes!

Bill Howland
Well you’re confused but I’m not. The new Gen 2 volt did not have Bob Lutz doing behind the scenes Engineering Management that traded “latest and greatest” features for Battleship-Like reliability – people who have analyzed the rear hatch have said that – compared to a Toyota (which is otherwise the TOPS in reliability for years) – the Gen 1 volt is built like a TANK. Therefore it is a stupendous used car bargain. It remains one of the few vehicles where no one has died in a normal collision, even with millions of miles driven. The car is so superior in this respect to the “S” that it isn’t funny. I haven’t heard much about the ‘3’, but I suspect it is better than the “S”, and of course, the GEN 2 volt is worse than the gen 1. The Clarity is exactly as the owner said it was. There are somewhat trivial problems but the drive train is well behaved. But your constant complaints toward the GEN 1 Volt that the practical production car did not live up to exactly all the specs of the concept car (few actual cars are) you constantly complained about here, and accused… Read more »
Tom Huffman

I must be an outlier. My 2016 Volt has 3 years and 40,000 miles on it and I’ve not had a bit of trouble.

Bill Howland

The question I have about GEN 2 volt owners’ experience, is, Are the problems of a trivial nature as was the Honda Clarity PHEV, or is it major drive train or body issues?

BroncoBet

Fred is having problems with his 3,cold weather is hard on all the 3’s.

Sammy

What ‘Fred’? Do you mean Fred Flintstone?

Mark.ca

What garbage!
Check out what they say for Focus:
“Since Focus Electric has fewer parts to malfunction, the EV version won’t turn out as bad as gas-powered models, but it’s not a safe bet, according to buyers. You’re probably better off avoiding them on the used market in the coming years.”

The title of this post is highly misleading….the source only talks about “Predicted reliability” not reliability!

JyChevyVolt

My clarity electric has zero problem with 12,000 miles.

The Gen 1 volt has 100,000 miles with one high voltage fault that was clear with coolant. The only problem is excessive tire wear. I need to replace the tire again (4th time).

Gen 2 volt has 2000 miles after 5 months. The Gen 2 is very inefficient during hot and cold weather. I struggle to get 50 miles of range.

I can’t wait for the Kona or Niro EV.

Viking79

My Clarity PHEV has needed 3 repairs in 25,000 miles and less than a year. Any other new or nearly new car I have owned has needed fewer or equal in 3 to 6 years.

I think CR is accurate, but they maybe suggest it us more of a problem than it really is. I still like the Clarity and think long term reliability will be good.

Alex Machina

In my experience, this story is pure garbage. I’ve had a Ford Focus EV for 5 years, and have not had a single problem with it. It has required no service at all, other than tires and windshield washer fluid. Some friends who own a Tesla report similar experience.

Viking79

Remember, you are a sample size of 1. CR is looking at statistics from many individuals and comparing that to how other vehicles perform. On average, the Focus EV users are having more repairs than say the Bolt EV. You might have trouble and own a Bolt EV and not have trouble with the Focus, but statistically that is not as likely to happen as the other way.

Rob R

I think the Tesla problems are mostly annoyances, rather than things leading to breakdowns.
Given that they have only been mass producing cars for 6 years, this is no surprise. Rapid improvement seems certain, and Model 3 should be much better, as there are far fewer mechanicals to go wrong.

bradley cross

Some Teslas have definitely broken down as various forums have reported. I suspect almost all car makes have some cars that have an issue, especially if not serviced on schedule. Especially for brand new models.

Jim Hansel

I am on my second BMW i3REX. Absolutely no issues.

Suzi

Still lovin’ the Chevy Bolt!v

Threader

Good for you but it’s not on the CR list from this article. It is however suppose to be GMs most reliable new passenger vehicle.

Viking79

It is the top of the list for the Most Reliable EVs.

Eric

I’m sure Big Oil and fossil auto are paying people to make sure consumer reports is inundated with crap about Tesla cars. You can be sure of it.
Don’t believe a word of it.

Joe

While I want an EV, I will stay with fossil fuels until a reliable full size,EV is produced under $20,000 with a solid state battery that can be fully recharged from 0 amps to full power in under 5 minutes.

Prsnep

Average ICE vehicle sells for more than $20k. You wouldn’t compromise ANYTHING for zero tailpipe emissions? Or for the instant torque in electric vehicles?

scoops

…Or the money savings? Or never having to go to a gas station again because you have a full ‘tank’ every morning?…

bradley cross

See you in line in 2030 for your vehicle.

Koko

Oooh let me guess, some of the problems this article doesn’t mention about Tesla, is that the gas bump is missing……..LOL

Chris O

There tends to be a large quality difference between early production Tesla models and later models so sweeping statements about Tesla quality don’t mean all that much. Sadly CR is just another rat feeding on crumbs from Tesla’s table so it’s the headlines that count, not the nuance.

Lance M. Gundersen

That’s interesting. I’ve owned my Volt for just a little less than 2 years, just crossed over 50,000 miles yesterday and the only issue I’ve ever had with it is a weak brake pedal return spring which caused the cruise control not to engage. It was fixed at no cost to me and everything works marvelously.

Herre we go

This is a catastrophe

darth

All my ICE vehicles had a severe reliability problem where I had to take them to a “service station” every few weeks to replace the “fuel”.
If this service was not done, they would just stop working! None of my EVs have this issue.

Andy

I hear EV’s have a similar problem. The battery drains when using them and you then have to wait between half an hour and 8+ hours after just a few hours of use (sometimes only an hour or two). So far, no one has been able to fix it… 😉

Bruce Sanders

I leased a 2014 Chevy Volt and ran it for 45,000 miles. I experienced one recall (rear hatch struts), but had not one single problem with it. It was a great vehicle.

Jim stack

What about the Nissan LEAF? It has had the worst main battery pack of any electric ever made in HOT areas like the Southern USA. Customersose 10x more capacity which is range than any. Other electric. It’s the Edsel of electric vehicle right next to the KIA SOUL EV also with no battery cooling.

BoltEV (was SparkEV)

I think Leaf rated way worse than measurable limits, so they didn’t even bother.

Paul Stoller

This comparison is stupid, at least without comparing the reliability of these cars to traditional ICEs. I have a feeling many of the would be seen quite favorably. In fact I bet at least a couple of these vehicles would end up on a most reliable list if the rest of the cars were ICE.

Dudamus
Tesla, Chevy, BMW do have some issues but they all have excellent warranties and the manufacturers are standing behind the warranties. With regards to Model S and Model X battery degradation problems, I would suspect the lack of a battery degradation warranty is the main reason most are trading in their faded X or S for Model 3’s. Thousands of owners are experiencing the dreaded 18650 battery choice and they are getting out while they still can. But if you have a S or X model and if you can use the car in the 20-80% charge range it will minimize your battery degradation and you could possible see a battery last 200K or more miles. Regarding the Chevy Bolt battery problems, it seems once the batteries get the right fix or replacement battery, owners have been experiencing lots of happy use. Unfortunately it only takes one 2AM cannot find a tow truck to sour an owner. LG needs to make BETTER batteries like Tesla needs to make BETTER cars. Lately the Bolt batteries have seemed to be better which could be the result of curtailed production. Car problems are not limited to some brands of EVs. My wife would… Read more »
John Hollenberg

No idea what you are talking about. Battery degradation on Tesla Model S is an order of magnitude less than the Nissan Leaf I had. I bought a used 2013 model S 15 months ago that had 65,000 miles on it. Capacity loss at that time was 5%. No capacity loss that I can tell since I bought it. Owners report some degradation early on and then the curve pretty much flattens out. Of course, if you charge to 100% every day and leave it there you won’t do as well. That’s just the way Lithium batteries work.

earl colby pottinger

Considering the charts already made at
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Epf_BY83M9FcuuOKfinQSSwSQtSfRxb-qVBcWmvXKY8/edit#gid=0 it sounds like FUD to me.

Dudamus

Buy the car that you like, that suites your daily range requirements, and fits your budget. Be patient and be aware that all the brands have excellent warranties, better than gas cars, and they stand behind their product. There are always growing and groin pains with new technologies.

America First

I may not have a true EV but my 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid (built in 2013) has only one part changed in five years: the oil filter. Everything else is factory original and has NO problems. I did bring it into the dealer to apply two recalls at no cost, except for my trip (17 miles) and a day’s wait. So Ford may excel in its hybrids and plug-ins, although I have never seen the Focus Electric..

Harold T

I don’t like articles like this because there is no quantification. If you take a car from the 50s and compare it to car from today, the results would show a huge improvement. As far as EV vs ICE reliability, the article doesn’t draw a comparison. Most issues are likely unrelated to the EV side of the car and more to do with fit and finish and seals and such vs battery packs or motor.
In general in the 30 years I’ve been driving, everything has gotten better and the margins are getting narrower every year.

Sega Songa

I’ve always been confused by these lists because they don’t mention compliance cars that seem to be built with the intention of disproving the utility of EVs. Used RAV4EVs, MB B250e, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus EV, Kia Soul EV, Nissan Leaf, etc all have major issues that require you to live very close to a repair shop. With the ratio of built cars to repairs listed in forums it appears that compliance cars should have honorable mentions regarding reliability. The used market is hard enough to navigate figuring our which cars have true BMS and severe degradation over time (like Leafs do). Now you have to know if the car Mercedes made last year is a lemon. There are 3600 of these they sold in the USA over 3 years.