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Why your swanky EV is more likely to break down than your banger


By Paul Homewood

h/t Ian Magness

We’ve all heard those nightmare stories of early adopters of electric vehicles (EVs) ending up stuck in the middle of nowhere, out of charge and with no access to a reliable charging point. Now, in a new survey by Which?, it seems that charging might be the least of their worries, as EVs were found to be the least reliable fuel type of all cars.

According to the report, they also spend longer off the road than other cars when they need repairs, as the most common faults are the more complex-to-fix software problems. All of which is bringing back rather painful memories of my own foray into being an EV driver.

The decision to buy an EV seemed like the logical one for my husband Neil and I back in 2019. Our ancient and battered Land Rover Discovery wouldn’t be compliant with the extended Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in the capital, which came into effect in October 2021, so we wanted to offload that sooner rather than later. Also, our growing teenage twins no longer needed to be ferried to and from sports fixtures across the South East, team-mates and bags of kit in tow. Finally, we thought, we could downsize our car and upscale our commitment to the environment. And we could get something brand new and sexy to assuage any pending midlife crises, too.

When we saw the Jaguar I-Pace electric car in a Mayfair showroom – price, a mere £65,000… – we were both smitten, imagining our next lifestage as empty nesters. Things would be much simpler, and we would have more time for adventures in our cool new set of wheels. If only we’d known how curtailed those exploits were going to be, and how short-lived our love affair with our EV would be.

Neil has always been a petrolhead; to say he is obsessed with cars is a bit of an understatement. He will happily spend hours under a bonnet, can fix all sorts of mechanical problems and knows more than anyone really should about the technical spec of every new car. He’d done his research on the I-Pace and, bar some concerns about the UK’s charging network (we felt confident that those would surely be resolved by the government over the next few years), we decided this was the car for us.

What we’d both underestimated, though, was the amount of software and technology that powered the car, over and above the mechanics of the battery-powered drivetrain, about which Neil is almost as clueless as me.

Within a week of taking delivery of our shiny new wondercar and installing a charging point on our small, off-street parking space, it was back in the workshop. Our fancy new Jaguar wouldn’t charge at all – either from our charging point, or the public one across the road. “It’s a software glitch,” the after-sales service manager helpfully told us, “we’ll come and collect it.” And they duly did, returning it five days later. But those software glitches kept on coming.

There was the time when the centre console wouldn’t come on, which meant we were without the charging and navigation information as well as the radio. That was another five days back in the dealer’s workshop – only this time, when the car was returned they’d forgotten to put our charging leads back in the boot. An understandable human error, but it added yet another couple of days to our off-road tally.

Next was getting stuck in a supermarket car park, where we were doing the weekly shop and thought it would be good to try a charging point while we were at it. After loading our bags into the boot, we couldn’t disconnect the lead. We spent the best part of 30 minutes grappling with it and prodding buttons here, there and everywhere while our fish fingers and ice cream melted in the boot.

Trish Halpin didn’t enjoy her Jaguar I-Pace as much as she hoped CREDIT: david shepherd

Eventually, Neil Googled the problem and found a forum of other drivers having encountered the same experience, with one thankfully sharing a hidden release toggle inside the bonnet, which we’d found no reference to in the leather-bound manual in the glovebox.

A few weeks later we did our first long drive on a motorway in rain and fog, feeling smug in our safety blanket of a car which would warn us of any impending dangers or cars we’d come too close to, thanks to a nifty radar system. Only that didn’t work either, as we found out when Neil put it to the test. I wasn’t too bothered about this as I’d rather rely on my own driving skills and awareness. But Neil wasn’t happy, given the price we’d paid for this car and all its wondrous gadgetry. Back to the garage again for yet another software update.

By this point, we were both wondering what we’d got ourselves into. But the final straw came one weekend when we tested the mileage range on a trip to the West Country. We carefully calculated that we had enough in the battery to get us there, with a few miles to spare. Overnight charging on a regular plug point would add enough to get us at least halfway home; we’d then stop at a service station and plug into a fast charger. We’d done the maths, we checked all the service stations and downloaded the charging apps – we’ve got this, we thought. Only when we arrived at our destination, we were 40 miles short of the promised range. Again, no problem, we’ll just stop at an earlier service station on the way home.

Still charging up

And so we did. But we couldn’t get any of the charging points to work, so after 20 minutes of trying we decided to head for the next service station. Same problem, although other EVs seemed to be charging OK. The horrible thought hit us both: what if we can’t get home, or the car expires with a flat battery in the outside lane of the M4?

Eventually, after a third failed attempt at charging and with only 10 miles left in the battery, we made it to a Jaguar Land Rover dealership outside Reading, where they thankfully agreed to let us charge the car. And it worked, so we got home – five hours later than planned.

When we called the garage the next morning, we heard the all too familiar refrain: “We’ll have to bring it in to check the software, it must be an interface problem.” After another week off the road, we decided that however much we wanted to be at the forefront of the EV revolution, and however smiling, helpful and polite the Jaguar service team were, our middle-aged blood pressure just couldn’t take it.

A Jaguar spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear that one of our customers experienced some charging issues with their new vehicle.

“Jaguar takes product quality very seriously, we continuously improve our vehicles with the introduction of software over the air for customer convenience.

“The Jaguar I-Pace is a multi-award winning product having achieved both the World Car of the Year and the European Car of the Year in 2019.”

However, we are now the happy owners of a very reliable hybrid, doing our around-town mileage on electric, and longer journeys on E10 petrol. According to Which?, hybrids are the most reliable cars of any fuel types, so at least we’ve finally got it right.


MARCH 4, 2022

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