Do electric vehicles have 80% more problems than conventional vehicles?

By December 14, 2023 December 22nd, 2023 Environment, Technology, Transport

We came across the following post on X (formerly Twitter):

The post claims that electric vehicles (EVs) have ‘80% more problems and are “generally less reliable” than conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. It also claimed that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were ‘found to have 150% more issues than traditional ICE vehicles’. The post included a link to an article on the website ZeroHedge.

We found similar reports on other social media platforms. On Telegram, we found a similar post in a Telegram channel for the website The Expose (also known as Expose News), where a link to the web article was included.

When we visited ZeroHedge and Expose News, we found that the headlines reflected the text in the social media posts. However, we recognised both these sources as being unreliable, having previously identified false claims from both The Expose and ZeroHedge.

The Expose and ZeroHedge are also listed by the media bias and credibility resource Media Bias/Fact Check as having very poor records of factual reporting and routinely promoting false and misleading information, including conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.

80% More Problems

When we investigated the details of the articles on the two websites, we found that they both referred to a ‘new report from Consumer Reports’ that they said contained the findings, which included the figure that EVs have 80% more problems than ICE vehicles.

Consumer Reports is a nonprofit organisations that conducts research and independent testing with a mission to improve transparency and fairness in the marketplace.

We found the article referred to by ZeroHedge and The Expose on Consumer Reports, which was written on 29 November and titled, ‘Who Makes the Most Reliable New Cars?

The report measured reliability in different categories—ICE vehicles, EVs, Hybrids and Plug-in electric vehicles. The report measured data on over 330,000 vehicles, with owners being asked about problems they had had with the vehicles in the previous 12 months.

We found that the figure that EVs had 80% more problems was likely to have been obtained from the following graphic, which was the only location in the article where the figure was mentioned. The graphic compared the average difference of problem rates over the last three model years for hybrids, EVs and plug-in hybrids as compared to ICE vehicles.

While the figure is 79%, not 80%, the figure was listed simply as 80% in some headlines, while in others ‘almost 80%’ or 79% was used. The figure for plug-in hybrids was also 146%, not 150% as mentioned in the X/Twitter post. While the rounded figure may not be entirely accurate, the minor difference does not impact the overall veracity of the reports. Moreover, we found that more reputable publications, such as Fortune, had also reported the figure as 80%.

Selective Reporting, Omission and Embellishment

The findings in the Consumer Reports article indicates that the reports in ZeroHedge and The Expose are accurate. However, the two reports omitted key details that could lead to the articles potentially being misleading to the reader.

The Expose failed to include a quote by the senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, Jake Fisher, who had been quoted liberally across articles relating to these findings on the Consumer Reports site.

Fisher explained that the susceptibility to problems of EVs was due to their relative infancy in the market. ‘EVs are still in their relative infancy as mainstream vehicles, so it’s really not surprising that manufacturers, by and large, are still working out the kinks’, he said, among other quotes.

In comparison, hybrids had recorded a better reliability score than ICE vehicles as automakers had been making them for a long time—over 25 years in the case of the Toyota Prius.

Variants of the extended quotes by Fisher and other Consumer Reports executives were reported along with the context in credible news sources like AP News and Ars Technica. In comparison, they were not included in the article on The Expose.

ZeroHedge’s reporting was more comprehensive, including some of these details and a quote from Fisher. However, in the introduction to their article, ZeroHedge’s writer expressed derision at the fact that governments were subsidising the purchases of EVs—an indication that their reporting was not balanced.

‘Good thing every major government around the world is subsidizing their use in the name of ‘climate change’, right?’, ZeroHedge wrote after relaying the Consumer Reports findings.

The articles on ZeroHedge and The Expose are indications that poorly credible sources can still report news factually. Even so, they may not be reliable due to the potentially misleading use of selective reporting and omission of key context.

Conspiracy theories around the adoption of electric vehicles and other electric appliances have been on the rise, with some theories earlier this year positing that governments were driving up gas prices to encourage adoption of EVs. Social media posts had suggested that governments could shut down EVs at will, using the vehicles as a tool of control.

A search on The Expose and ZeroHedge revealed that the two sites almost exclusively posted headlines that were overwhelmingly negative on electric vehicles.

Even so, despite the links of The Expose and ZeroHedge to such conspiracy theories, the claim that electric vehicles have almost 80% more problems than conventional vehicles is true.

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