Although electric cars are technically simpler compared to thermal models, they are not exempt from any errors. Several studies have pointed to the most frequent crashes involving electric cars. But can we really say that electric cars have too many malfunctions?
It is a fact that electric cars require less maintenance compared to their thermal counterparts. Why ? Simply because the electric ones benefit from much simpler mechanics. The absence of an internal combustion engine, of certain liquids, of sometimes complex mechanisms … All these elements do not relate to electric cars. As a result, some manufacturers recommend a maintenance frequency for every 30,000 km for an electric model versus 15,000 for a thermal one. At Tesla it is even simpler, as the manufacturer recommends replacing the cabin air filter every 2 to 3 years depending on the model, checking the brake fluid every 2 years, having the air conditioning checked every 3 to 6 years old and … that’s it !
In addition to the mechanical aspect, however, there are many elements in common between an electric and an internal combustion engine, especially the wear parts. But also there are some differences between the two energies. For example, thanks to regenerative braking, users of electric cars will tend to wear their brake pads much less compared to a thermal car.
The shortcut could therefore be easy, and we can say that electric cars are generally more reliable compared to those equipped with an internal combustion engine. But as several studies point out, electric cars are not unchallenged.
Too much electronics kills electronics?
With some electric cars that are over 10 years old or almost (Renault Zoé, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S), we now have enough perspective to point out what may be malfunctioning. And paradoxically, it is not the “oldest” cars that have the most problems. For example, we could see it with the recent Volkswagen ID.3 and its software issues at the time of the first deliveries. Problems that have just been resolved at the expense of several updates and for some customers a visit to the workshop.
It is the software problems that are the most recurring for an electric car. It shows a study conducted by the British company Which ?. Exactly 48,034 Britons, owning a total of 56,853 vehicles, were questioned last year about the reliability of their means of transport. And on the list of the most frequent crashes such as. consecutive days with stops, electric cars are at the forefront.
According to the figures presented by this study, electric cars account for 31.4% of the crashes suffered by respondents over the past 12 months, ahead of diesel cars by 29.1%, and rechargeable hybrids accounting for 27.5%. On their part, the petrol models are far behind with 18.1% of accidents.
To make matters worse for the electric car, it is also the one that remains immobilized the longest due to a breakdown, with an average of 5.1 days, ahead of plug-in hybrids and hybrids, with 4. 2 and 3.9 days off, respectively. . It is still the petrol models that do best with 3 days of breakdown on average. Electric cars are also the ones experiencing the most start-up problems, as they were observed at least once a year by 8.1% of respondents, compared to 6.9% for diesel cars and 5.6% for PHEV cars.
Above all, the study highlights software problems, but under no circumstances problems with engines and batteries. These cars are being developed globally at lightning speed under pressure from the legislature to lower their annual average CO emissions as much as possible2some models, as was the case with Volkswagen ID.3, leave the workshops and are supplied with some software errors.
Nothing that could affect the driver’s safety, but these software issues can make the driving experience limiting with, for example, a faulty infotainment system or a charging planner not working properly. We noticed this especially in our test of the Skoda Enyaq at the time of its release, with some software issues on our trial version, which was part of the first series.
The good point is that it is possible to update the software part easily, whether it is in the workshop or externally in OTA, as opposed to a mechanical problem which can be more complicated to repair and more expensive.
Very few problems specific to electric cars
Last year, the German car club ADAC also published a statistical study on accidents in passenger cars with a section on electric cars. The study identified 3.386 million crashes for 2020 on new passenger cars registered between 2011 and 2018 in Germany (including EV and thermal).
The main breakdowns regarding thermal models concern the 12V battery. Looking at the analysis that has been done, the 12V battery was the main source of error in 2020 on electric cars. 54% of the accidents on these cars were due to this element against 46.3% for petrol or diesel models. ADAC explains this higher figure with the absence of recurring problems on electric motors, further highlighting the problems associated with this equipment on electric cars. Since electric car 12V batteries are in fact similar to those mounted on thermal cars.
In addition to the lithium-ion battery to supply the engine with electrons, an electric vehicle is also equipped with a 12V battery to put the vehicle into use in a way that is therefore essential for proper operation. To avoid discharging the 12V battery too quickly on an electric car, even when storing your car in a garage, remember to lock the car well. This avoids leaving certain energy-consuming equipment on standby.
If the 12V battery represents the most important crashes recorded in 2020 in Germany on cars (all engines combined), what could be the other reasons? In second place we find general electricity and light problems for 15.1%, very closely followed by tires with 14.2%. Problems specific to electric vehicles (lithium battery, built-in charger or motor (s)) represent only 4.4% of accidents. In comparison with a thermal model, the engine is cited in 16% of cases, ie almost four times more.
Ventilation and temperature control systems represent only 0.1% of breakdowns. If you are good at mental arithmetic, there is still a share of 12.2%, which includes various anomalies. This includes problems with body and chassis, steering, brakes, transmission, etc.
A loss of autonomy over the kilometers driven
For its part, the ADAC study also highlights the minimal share of breakdowns that pertain to the traction battery or engine, as the vast majority of electric cars in circulation are younger than thermal models. Still, with older electric models, the most common concern (and not a breakdown) is battery storage. In other words, the wear and tear on the battery, which loses part of its capacity over the years and the kilometers driven. The battery packs are guaranteed for several years, determined with a minimum preservation for the most part (generally 70%), but the warranty still runs for eight years in the vast majority of cases. All of this should qualify (and in a good way) with the study recently published by Tesla. This indicates a loss of battery capacity of less than 10% after 160,000 km and about 15% after 320,000 km. Autonomy is being reduced a bit, but it is not going to be dramatic either.
Finally, as we have seen in this case, if we put aside the software problems – which could also affect thermobiles if they were developed as fast as their electric counterparts – electric cars are far more reliable than thermobiles.
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