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Which is most reliable – a petrol or electric car?

Written by: Emma Lunn
With a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars due to come into effect by 2030, Brits are being encouraged to make the switch to an electric vehicle.

But a survey by Which? suggests this could lead to more breakdowns as it found that electric vehicles  are the most fault-prone fuel type.

The consumer champion is calling on car manufacturers to improve the reliability of electric vehicles after it found they were the least reliable fuel type and spend longer off the road than other cars when they need repairs.

A Which? survey found that of cars up to four-years-old, nearly one in three (31%) electric car 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.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for drivers who want to move to a more sustainable vehicle. Among cars four-years-old or less, the Kia e-Niro was found to be the most reliable electric car and also the most reliable small or compact SUV of any fuel type.

Just one in every 17 (6%) e-Niro owners reported any kind of fault with their car and only one in 100 (1%) said their car had failed to start or broke down. However, the unlucky few who did have an issue faced an average of around eight-and-a-half days off the road, showing there is still work to do on improving repair times when things do go wrong.

Which? is calling on other car makers to up their game and improve the quality of their cars. It says manufacturers need to gain the trust of drivers to encourage them to switch towards more sustainable cars.

The consumer champion says there is potential for manufacturers to improve as there are fewer moving parts in electric vehicles than in other fuel types. The most common faults raised by electric car drivers in the survey were software problems, not motor or battery pack issues.

There are also reliable, partly-electric cars available on the market today. Which?’s 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 more than 48,000 vehicle owners. The survey asked owners if there had been any faults with their cars in the 12 months prior to answering.

Despite the price tag, Which?’s survey also found that Tesla is the least reliable electric vehicle 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.

But a positive for Tesla was that its cars were only off the road for just under three-and-a-half days on average when they needed repair work.

As well as calling for an improvement in electric car reliability, Which? has also recently called for the quality and provision of charging infrastructure to be significantly improved.

It says having confidence in both electric vehicles and the infrastructure to charge them is crucial to support drivers to choose a more sustainable car.

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.” Redirect To Xpert Electric and similar sites to know more about EV cars and chargers. And as you can see from this EV Charger service, it can offer a very competitive price for those who intend to use them on their vehicles.

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