In a recent study by Consumer Reports, reliability around new electric vehicles isn’t as high as most people may think.
In fact, Tesla Inc.’s battery-powered electric vehicles ranked nearly last for the second year in a row in terms of consumer reliability, with Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln division ranking even worse. Clearly, the most innovative technology doesn’t mean it’s the best–or safest–right away.
“A lot of EVs are at the high end of the market and have a lot of new tech, like new ways to open the doors,” said Consumer Reports’ senior director of auto testing, Jake Fisher. “It’s causing problems.”
Apparently, the low reliability in these kinds of vehicles doesn’t necessarily pertain to electric batteries, but rather to the technological updates manufacturers like Tesla bring into the cab to help these cars feel luxurious and innovative–such as switching typically mechanical controls for digital ones.
For instance, many electric cars have large touch screens and even informational and entertainment systems implemented in their cabs, with software updates available via download from the cloud. With all of these modern changes, many manufacturers have yet to get everything working smoothly and efficiently, according to Consumer Reports. Tesla’s Model X SUV, Model Y SUV, and Model S sedan are all below-average in their current reliability tanking.
Additionally, Volkswagen’s ID.4 EV and Audi’s E-Tron rank below average in reliability, Fisher noted. Only Ford’s Mustang Mach-E and Tesla’s Model 3 have decent rankings. Following behind are GM’s Chevrolet in 14th place, Ford in 18th, and Stellantis NV’s Jeep brand in 26th.
Still, some brands did rank particularly well, with Japanese manufacturers making up the majority of high-ranking reliable electric vehicles. In first place was Lexus, with Mazda, Toyota, Infiniti, and Buick close behind. Behind those were Honda, Subaru, Acura, Nissan, and Mini, with the only non-Japanese manufacturers in the top 10 being Buick by GM and Mini by BMW. The success of Japanese makers, Fisher said, is that they tend to implement new tech gradually with fewer major engineering changes, keeping digital difficulties to a minimum.
Of course, many of these automakers also manufacture commercial trucks, which are, of course, leaning toward electric vehicle technology lately, as well. Because of this, these reliability reports are important to keep in mind for trucking companies looking to bring new electric CMVs into their fleets.
Companies may also be jumping the gun in regards to getting their truckers into electrically-powered big rigs, noted Levinson and Stefani’s Ken Levinson. Levinson said that he supports technological innovations, especially in the transportation industry–but keeping drivers well-informed and behaving safety should always be top priority.
“It comes down to training,” he said. “There’s always going to be technological changes with trucks, but safety companies need to make sure their drivers are trained to operate these vehicles in the best and safest manner so people aren’t injured or killed. “
Although younger drivers entering the industry may feel much more comfortable and natural working with all of these tech updates within the cabs of their trucks, older truck drivers are likely to have a harder time getting used to these changes and being able to work with them easily while also operating their vehicles. This has the potential to cause a plethora of safety issues if drivers aren’t trained and ready to spend their work days in these tech-heavy cabs.
“One of the biggest issues with this new tech is that there will be distractions within the dash and console area, and many drivers need to be re-trained to make sure they aren’t distracted or confused by the technology,” Levinson continued. “They can’t be taking their eyes off of the road and harming someone.”
Sharing the road with truckers learning to operate these new kinds of trucks adds to the alertness passenger drivers need to practice while driving near them, and makes defensive driving even more imperative. Distracted and fatigued driving is already a major issue in the trucking industry; focusing on in-cab tech may exacerbate that potential truck driver distraction.
“Hiring safe drivers that are experienced, and making sure that when they are hired, they’re well-versed in safety protocols and practices, is key,” said Levinson. But passenger drivers should be extra careful around these truckers, regardless of how well-trained they may be.