Electric cars show weak points at HU

Image: Tesla

Electric vehicles are presented mixed in the general inspection (HU). This is demonstrated by the results of the “TÜV 2024 Report”. The VW e-Golf, which is no longer in production, is the best compact car among 2- to 3-year-old vehicles with a defect rate of 2.6 percent. In contrast, the Tesla Model 3 ranks last in this age group with a defect rate of 14.7 percent. The Renault ZOE is in the upper midfield with 5.1 percent.

“With the success of electromobility, more and more electric cars are arriving at test centers,” explains Joachim Bühler, CEO of the TÜV association. “TÜV tests reveal some typical driving defects that are relevant to the technical safety of electric vehicles.”

Defects in braking function are discovered more frequently than average. One reason is recuperation, with which electric vehicles can recover braking energy. Therefore, the brake pads are under less stress compared to combustion engines, which can reduce braking capacity. Another weak point of many electric cars is the axle suspension. In particular, in the case of the Renault ZOE, the defect rates of the first and second HU are clearly above average. “The axle suspensions of many electric vehicles are affected by the high weight of the drive batteries,” says Bühler. “The result is negative test results at HU and costly repairs.”

This also applies to the Tesla Model 3: in addition to defects in the axle suspensions, the American electric car has an above-average defect rate in the brakes and lights. This places the Model 3 last in the ranking for children aged 2 to 3 years among the 111 types of cars examined in this age group. Although the mileage after three years is 55,000 kilometers, well above the average of 41,000, other frequently driven vehicles perform significantly better. Bühler: “In the coming years it will become clear to what extent the defects detected in brakes and axles are typical of electric vehicles and whether manufacturers should make improvements in certain models.”

One in five vehicles fails

The overall evaluation of the TÜV 2024 report shows: With a proportion of 20.5 percent, one in five good cars has “significant” or “dangerous” defects and therefore failed the general inspection (HU). Compared with the same period last year, this is a slight increase of 0.3 percentage points.

Experts at the TÜV test centers found “small defects” in 11.2 percent of the vehicles (+0.5 points). 0.05 percent were classified as “unsafe for traffic” and had to be closed immediately; According to all general inspections in Germany, this corresponds to around 15,000 vehicles.

“After a positive pandemic effect, the defect rate has returned to the previous level,” reports Bühler. “In recent years there has been no sustained improvement in the technical safety of the vehicle fleet in Germany.” Vehicles with “major defects” must be repaired within a month and then presented again at the test centers. If a “dangerous defect” is discovered, the owner must go directly to the workshop.

The TÜV report pays particular attention to older vehicles, since the proportion of reported vehicles increases with age. The average age of the vehicle fleet in Germany is continually increasing and is currently ten years on average. By 2023, 45 percent of the vehicle fleet will be 10 years old or older. For comparison: in 2019 it was 42 percent.

“We see two trends: vehicle longevity is improving and rust is no longer a problem,” explains Bühler. “At the same time, new car prices have skyrocketed. “Many consumers can no longer afford it and rely on a used vehicle.”

Due to the increasing importance of older cars, the current TÜV report also includes vehicles between 12 and 13 years old for the first time. The average failure rate (significant deficiencies) in this age group is 28.9 percent. The most vulnerable models are the Renault Twingo with 39.9 percent and the Dacia Logan with 40.9 percent. The Audi TT, apparently well maintained by its owner, accounts for only 15.0 percent and the VW Golf Plus 20.7 percent. “Despite greater overall longevity, older vehicles pose a problem for road safety,” says Bühler. “When it comes to used vehicles, those interested in purchasing them must know the weak points of the respective models and take into account the need to periodically invest in the maintenance and care of the vehicles.”

The overall winner of the 2024 TÜV report is the VW Golf Sportsvan. The proportion of 2-3 year old vehicles with major defects is only 2.0 percent. This is the lowest value of all vehicles tested. Also on the podium were the Audi Q2 with 2.1 percent and the Audi TT with 2.5 percent. In addition to the double-winning Golf Sportsvan, the VW T-Roc impressed with a 4.5 percent defect rate among 4- to 5-year-olds. The Mazda CX-3 wins among 6- to 7-year-olds with 6.5 percent.

In the classification by vehicle category, the Opel Karl leads the minis with 3.6 percent in the first HU. Among slightly larger small cars, the Peugeot 208 wins with 4.0 percent and among compact cars the e-Golf wins (2.6%). Among SUVs, the Audi Q2 leads (2.1%) and among vans, the Golf Sportsvan (2.0%). Bühler: “The 2024 TÜV report shows that numerous manufacturers achieved top positions in the various vehicle ages and classes. Longevity and quality reward customers and ensure a high level of vehicle safety.”

TÜV association demands access to safety-relevant vehicle data

With a view to the electrification and digitalization of the vehicle fleet, the TÜV association calls for further development of the general inspection. “Until now, testing the high-voltage battery in electric cars consisted of a purely visual inspection,” says Bühler. Additional test points can improve protection against electric shock and surges.

“Testing organizations need better access to safety-relevant vehicle data to be able to check the condition of the battery and other components,” explains Bühler. This included cybersecurity and software status, as manufacturer updates influence the operation and safety of the respective vehicle. Additionally, data analytics can be used to more effectively combat widespread speedometer fraud. According to EU Commission estimates, the mileage of half of all used cars traded cross-border is manipulated.

The TÜV association is also in favor of the creation of a digital vehicle register. “A digital vehicle log records the history of a vehicle and documents changes relevant to safety and the environment,” says Bühler. In addition to tow hitches, aluminum wheels and modernized spoilers, the changes also included software updates that influence the driving characteristics and other functions of a car. Bühler: “A digital vehicle registry, as is already common in other countries, brings more transparency to the increasingly important used vehicle market.”

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