Evaluating the Future: Consumer Reports Adapts Tests and Ratings for Electric Vehicles

HADDAM, Conn. – At a testing track in rural Connecticut, Ryan Pszczolkowski, the tire guy at Consumer Reports, revved up a Rivian electric pickup truck and watched as it accelerated with astonishing quickness. Pszczolkowski marveled at the sight of rubber being scrubbed off the track as the truck sped away. Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization that has been evaluating new cars since 1936, is increasingly focused on electric vehicles as the world strives to transition away from fossil fuels to combat climate change. With more than 70 new EVs set to launch in the next two years, the organization is evolving its testing methods to keep up with the shifting automotive landscape.

Consumer Reports’ auto-testing facility, situated on a former racetrack and modified extensively to include new turns and equipment, allows staff to evaluate acceleration, braking, and handling in a controlled environment. The facility plays a crucial role in testing vehicles away from public streets and ensuring unbiased evaluations. However, as the organization incorporates more electric vehicles into its testing lineup, adjustments had to be made to accommodate the unique characteristics of EVs.

Specifically, Consumer Reports now considers factors such as the ease of plugging and unplugging the vehicle, the functionality of in-vehicle apps for navigating to charging stations, and the vehicle’s range on a single charge. To assess range, testers take the vehicle out on the highway and drive it for extended periods, from full charge to empty, pushing the limits of electric power. Some cars have exceeded their EPA-estimated range, while others have fallen short.

In addition to testing vehicles, Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers about their experiences owning vehicles, providing insight into the problems encountered and the overall reliability of EVs compared to gas-powered cars. According to Jake Fisher, head of Consumer Reports’ auto-testing program, today’s EVs have 79% more problems than traditional cars. Established automakers like General Motors tend to face challenges with electric components such as motors, batteries, and software. In contrast, newer automakers like Rivian and Lucid grapple with more basic car-making issues like door handles and seals. Fisher sees these challenges as inevitable growing pains that will be worked out over time.

Consumer Reports ultimately expects EVs to be more reliable than conventional vehicles due to their simplicity and fewer moving parts. Fisher is impressed by the performance of EVs, describing them as unbelievably fast, quiet, and effortless to drive. The organization is also expanding its charging infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of EVs in its testing lineup, reflecting the industry’s rapid shift towards electric transportation.

As the automotive landscape continues to evolve, Consumer Reports remains committed to providing comprehensive and reliable evaluations of electric vehicles. The organization’s rigorous testing methods ensure that consumers have access to unbiased, data-driven assessments of the latest EV models. The transition to electric vehicles may present challenges, but Consumer Reports is dedicated to keeping pace with the changing industry and enabling consumers to make informed decisions about their next car purchase.