Tesla was reported to be the least reliable EV brand

Car makers need to improve the reliability of electric vehicles, according to the consumers champions Which?

In a survey it found electric vehicles (EV) are the least reliable fuel type and spend longer off the road than other cars when they need repairs.

It reported that of cars up to four years old, nearly one in three (31%) EV owners reported one fault or more, compared to less than one in five (19%) petrol cars. 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.

The most common faults raised by EV drivers in the survey were software problems.

Tesla was the least reliable EV brand. In cars up to four years old, two fifths (39%) of Teslas had at least one fault and one in 20 (5%) had a breakdown or failed to start.

Which? has previously called for the Tesla Model S (2013- present), which starts from £79,980, to be recalled over issues with its door handles and locks for two years running. A positive for Tesla is that its cars were only off the road for just under three and a half days on average when they needed repair work.

There was better news on partly-electric cars as the survey found that the most reliable cars of any fuel type are full hybrids, with just one in six (17%) owners reporting a fault among cars aged up to four years old.

The annual Which? car survey is one of the largest motorist surveys assessing car reliability in the UK, collecting detailed feedback from over 48,000 vehicle owners. The survey asked owners if there had been any faults with their cars in the 12 months prior to answering.

As well as calling for an improvement in EV reliability, Which? has also recently called for the quality and provision of charging infrastructure to be significantly improved. A recent policy paper from the consumer champion calls for improvements in the accessibility and the experience of using the public charging infrastructure.

Lisa Barber, Which? home products and services editor, said: “We know that drivers are keen to make the move to more environmentally-friendly cars but it is vital that they are getting a quality product. Whilst it’s disappointing to see that EVs as a group are the least reliable, Kia’s e-Niro shows there is a significant opportunity for manufacturers to up their game and provide drivers with a reliable and more sustainable car.

“With EVs in particular, our research shows a premium price tag does not necessarily mean a reliable vehicle, so we would always encourage drivers to do their research ahead of such a significant purchase to see which cars and brands they can trust.”

RAC head of technical James Gibson was less critical of EV manufacturers. He said: “There is no question there are fewer moving parts with electric cars which makes them more reliable than a petrol or diesel car in the long run, but it’s also the case that the software running them is more complex which has the potential to cause some issues.

“But it’s very important to realise that most software problems can be solved easily, either by wireless updates or ‘restarts’ in the same way as a desktop computer simply by disconnecting the 12v auxiliary battery and ‘rebooting’ the system, something our expert patrols routinely do for our members in these situations. Many manufacturers are also able to help drivers sort issues out over the phone by getting them to carry out certain functions to reboot systems.

“While taking a new electric car back to the dealership is clearly frustrating it can often be the case with any new car, regardless of how it’s powered.”