what are the common failures?

Even if electric cars are technically simpler compared to thermal models, they are not free of some malfunctions. Numerous studies have focused on the most frequent breakdown of electric cars. But can we say that electric cars have too many malfunctions?

It is a fact, electric cars require little maintenance compared to their thermal counterparts. Why? Simply because electricians benefit from more simple mechanics. The absence of a combustion engine, of some fluids, sometimes complex mechanisms… All these elements do not take into account the electric cars. As a result, some manufacturers recommend a maintenance frequency every 30,000 km for an electric model against 15,000 for a thermal one. At Tesla, it’s even simpler because the manufacturer recommends replacing the cabin air filter every 2 to 3 years depending on the model, checking the brake fluid every 2 years, checking the air conditioning every 3 to 6 years old and… that’s it!

Beyond the mechanical aspect, however, there are many elements in common between an electric and a combustion engine, especially the worn parts. But there too, there are some differences between the two strengths. For example, thanks to regenerative braking, users of electric cars are likely to wear their brake pads much less compared to a thermal car.

The shortcut will be easy and we can say that electric cars are usually more reliable compared to those equipped with a combustion engine. However, as many studies have pointed out, electric cars are not to be underestimated.

Excess electronics can kill electronics?

With some electric cars over 10 years old or almost (Renault Zoé, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S), we now have enough vision to focus on what may not work. And, paradoxically, it’s not the “oldest” cars that have a lot of problems. We can for example see this in the new Volkswagen ID.3 and its software problems during initial deliveries. The problems have recently been resolved at the cost of multiple updates and, for some customers, workshop visits.

These are the software problems that are most recurring for an electric car. This is according to a study recently conducted by the British company Which ?. Exactly 48,034 Britons who owned a total of 56,853 cars were questioned about the reliability of their mode of transport last year. And on the list of the most frequent breakdowns such as consecutive days of stoppage, electric cars top the list.

According to the figures put forward in this study, electric cars accounted for 31.4% of the breakdowns suffered by respondents in the past 12 months, ahead of diesel vehicles with 29.1%, and rechargeable hybrids with 27.5%. For their part, gasoline models are far from 18.1% of crashes.

To make matters worse in the case of the electric car, it is also the one that has remained immobilized the longest due to a breakdown, with an average of 5.1 days, ahead of plug-in hybrids. and hybrids, with 4, respectively. 3.9 days vacation. These are still the petroleum models that work best with a 3 day breakdown on average. EVs also experienced the most start -up problems, as it was observed at least once a year in 8.1% of respondents, compared to 6.9% for diesels and 5.6% for PHEVs.


The study highlighted software problems above all else, but no problems with motors and batteries. These vehicles are being developed around the world at lightning speed under legislative pressure to lower as much as possible the annual average CO.2some models, as happened with the Volkswagen ID.3, left the workshops and were delivered with some software malfunctions.

Nothing will affect driver safety, but these software problems can cause the driving experience to be hampered, for example, by a faulty infotainment system or a charging schedule not working properly. We noticed this especially when we tested the Skoda Enyaq at the time of its release, which had some software issues with our trial version that was part of the first series.

The good point is that it is possible to update the software part quickly, whether in the workshop or remotely OTA, unlike a mechanical problem that can be more complicated to fix and more expensive.

Very few issues specific to electric vehicles

Last year, the German automobile club ADAC also published a statistical study of the breakdowns of passenger cars, with a section on electric cars. The study identified 3.386 million breakdowns for 2020 in new passenger cars registered between 2011 and 2018 in Germany (including EV and thermal).

The main downsides about thermal models revolve around the 12V battery. Looking at the analysis done, the 12V battery is the main source of failure in 2020 in electric cars. 54% of the breakdowns in these cars are due to this element against 46.3% for petrol or diesel models. ADAC explains this higher number by eliminating recurring problems with electric motors which further exacerbates the problems associated with this equipment in electric cars. Because in reality, 12V batteries in electric cars are the same as those fitted in thermal cars.

In addition to the Lithium-ion battery to supply the motor with electrons, an electric car is also equipped with a 12V battery to put the car in service in a way, so it is essential for proper operation. To avoid discharging the 12V battery too fast in an electric car, even if you put your car in the garage, remember to lock the car tightly. This avoids leaving some energy-consuming equipment on standby.

If the 12V battery represents the major breakdowns known in 2020 in Germany in cars (all engines combined), what else could be the other causes? In second place, we found overall electrical and lighting problems for 15.1%, followed closely by tires at 14.2%. Problems specific to electric vehicles (lithium battery, on-board charger, or motor (s)) represent only 4.4% of the breakdowns. By comparing a thermal model, the engine is quoted in 16% of cases, i.e. almost four times.


Ventilation and temperature management systems represent only 0.1% of the breakdowns. If you are good at mental arithmetic, the 12.2% share remains covering various anomalies. These include problems with the body and chassis, steering wheel, brakes, transmission, and more.

Loss of autonomy in kilometers traveled

In this regard, the ADAC study also highlighted the small proportion of damages related to the traction battery or engine, since most electric circulating cars are younger than thermal models. However, in older power models, the most common concern (and not breakage) is battery maintenance. In other words, the battery breaks down, losing part of its capacity over many years and the kilometers traveled. Battery packs are guaranteed for a few years, in fact there is a minimum retention in most cases (usually 70%), but the warranty still lasts for eight years in most cases. All of this should be qualified (and in a good way) in the study recently published by Tesla. This shows a loss of battery capacity of less than 10% after 160,000 km and about 15% after 320,000 km. Autonomy is slightly reduced, but neither is it dramatic.

Finally, as we have seen in this dossier, if we rule out software problems – which can also affect thermal cars if they develop as quickly as their electric counterparts – the electrical cars are more reliable than thermal cars.

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