Demand for electric vehicles is booming, or at least that’s what the International Energy Agency says.

Globally, the IEA reports, EVs accounted for 14% of new vehicle sales in 2022 (compared to 9% in 2021). In the U.S. — the third-largest EV market after China and Europe — they made up 11% of new vehicle sales in September 2023 and, in the same month, passed the 1 million mark for EVs sold in 2023.

However, Consumer Reports’ latest annual car reliability survey shows that electric vehicles, on average, are less reliable than gas-powered vehicles or hybrids. Based on owner responses for more than 330,000 vehicles, the survey found that EVs from the past three model years encountered 79% more problems than conventional vehicles.

That finding shouldn’t come as a real surprise, says Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

“Most electric cars today are being manufactured by either legacy automakers that are new to EV technology, or by companies like Rivian that are new to making cars,” Fisher says.

“It’s not surprising that they’re having growing pains and need some time to work out the bugs.”

Not all EVs are the same

In terms of reliability, not all EVs are created equally. And what appears to matter is less how they were created and more when. Consider that EV manufacturer Rivian, which is number 28 on Consumer Reports’ ranking of 30 car brands for reliability, only shipped its first vehicles in October 2021.

And then compared that with Tesla, which ranks 14th on the list. Although a number of the brands higher on the list include hybrid cars, Tesla, which was founded 20 years ago and has been shipping vehicles to consumers for more than a decade, was the top EV manufacturer.

And Tesla’s Model Y and Model 3 vehicles have earned Consumer Reports’ recommended status.

Finally, it may matter what type of vehicle you drive. Certain models, like trucks, have been blasted for not being able to keep up with their gas-powered counterparts.

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EVs cost more to repair — but this may be temporary

But what about costs? Citing a 2021 study of the service and repair of 19 million vehicles by We Predict (now part of J.D. Power), Kelley Blue Book reports that “while EVs cost less in maintenance because they have fewer regular maintenance procedures, they cost more to repair than their gasoline equivalents.”

According to the report, EVs were 2.3 times more expensive to service than gas cars during the first three months of ownership and 1.6 times more expensive at the one-year mark.

But, according to Kelley Blue Book, the primary driver of this extra expense is labor. There’s currently a shortage of mechanics who are certified to service EVs, so those with certification remain in high demand — and more expensive. It also takes them 1.5 times longer to work on EVs than gas-powered cars, since problems take longer to diagnose and repair.

More recently, Mitchell, a claims management and technology solutions provider for the automotive repair and P&C industry, reported that in the third quarter of the year, labor as a percentage of repair cost was 49.66% for EVs compared to 41% for gas-powered vehicles. But this is seen as a short-term problem. As EVs grow in popularity, the number of qualified technicians is expected to increase.

Repairs from collisions are also more expensive. According to Mitchell, repair costs for EVs continue to trend higher than those for gas-powered cars. In the third quarter of 2023, for example, it cost $950 more to repair an EV than a gas-powered vehicle.

The future looks bright

Of course, this may not matter to most EV buyers. According to a 2023 global survey by EY, EV buyers are primarily motivated by high fuel prices, environmental concerns and penalties on gas-powered cars. Only 22% reported being concerned about running costs.

It remains to be seen if electric cars will become more reliable and less expensive to repair relative to gas-powered cars. But manufacturers are likely to work through the bugs in their vehicles, while labor costs could come down as more technicians are trained and certified.

And, since reliability isn’t a primary motivator for EV purchasers, the future is likely still bright for EVs.

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