2020 What Car? Reliability Survey: electric cars

In our exhaustive annual survey, we reveal how dependable cars up to five years old are, based on the experiences of 13,000 owners...

EXECUTIVE CAR: Tesla Model 3 Performance

Most reliable electric cars

1. Tesla Model 3 (2019-present)

Reliability rating 99.4%

What went wrong? Interior trim 5%

Tesla's newest model is not only the most dependable executive car, it's also the highest scoring electric car. Just 5% of cars suffered a fault, according to owners. All cars could still be driven and were fixed in a day or less at no cost to the owners.

Owner’s view "Everything about this car is superb, and I've had none of the build quality issues of the earlier models"

2. Hyundai Kona Electric (2018-present) 

Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh

Reliability rating 98.5%

Only 7% of Kona Electrics went wrong, with the ancillary battery being the only area affected. All of those cars could still be driven but took more than a week to repair. All work was carried out for free under warranty.

3. BMW i3 (2013-present)

BMW i3 2018 front cornering

Reliability rating 97.9%

Just under 13% of i3s have caused their owners any trouble in the past 12 months, suffering from problems with their infotainment/sat-nav systems and interior trim. All of the affected cars could still be driven; a third were fixed in less than a day, while another third took up to a week and the rest more than a week to put right. All repairs were done under warranty.

Least reliable electric cars

1. Tesla Model S (2014-present)

Tesla Model S Long Range front

Reliability rating 85.7%

What went wrong? Bodywork 28%, non-motor electrics 22%, interior trim 11%, brakes 6%, motor electrics 6%, suspension 6%

The Model S suffered the highest percentage of faults in our entire survey, with 61% of the cars we were told about having a problem. Although all of them could still be driven, half were out of action for more than a week. And while 93% were fixed for free, the remaining owners paid out between £50 and £100 for repairs.

Owner’s view "Build quality is poor, especially the interior. I've had constant niggles with electronic driver aids such as voice control and Autopilot"

2. MG ZS EV (2019-present)

MG ZS EV long term

Reliability rating 89.4%

The ZS EV isn't proving to be the most dependable electric car. Although only 7% went wrong, all of those were rendered undriveable and took more than a week to repair. Problem areas included the battery, electric motor and non-engine electrics. The good news is that all of the faulty cars were fixed under warranty.

3. Nissan Leaf (2011-2017)

Nissan Leaf in the congestion charge zone

Reliability rating 95.6%

The Leaf isn't an unreliable car, so the fact that it sits in the bottom three here is a testament to the dependability of electric cars in general. Owners told us that 15% of their first-generation Leafs had suffered a fault, with issues centring on non-motor electrical systems and infotainment. All cars could still be driven, and half were fixed in a day or less. Three-quarters of repairs were done under warranty, and owners who had to pay shelled out between £100 and £200.

The 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey is open; tell us about your car

Reliability for Electric cars aged up to five years old

Rank Make and model Score
1. Tesla Model 3 2019-on 99.4%
2. Hyundai Kona Electric 2018-on 98.5%
3. BMW i3 2013-on 97.9%
4. Nissan Leaf 2018-on 97.2%
5. Jaguar I-Pace 2018-on 97.0%
6. Nissan Leaf 2011-2017 95.6%
7. MG ZS EV 2019-on 89.4%
8. Tesla Model S 2014-on 85.7%