3 Things to Know About Electric Cars and Lemon Laws

Mar 30, 2022 by Abby Adams, Assistant General Counsel, BBB National Programs

If you don’t own an electric vehicle (EV) yourself, you may know someone who does or someone who is considering joining the EV movement. In addition to EV makers themselves, more and more traditional manufacturers are investing in the development of EVs. Recently, the federal government supported this momentum with a significant investment in charging stations nationwide. All signs point to EVs dominating our near future.

Beyond wondering where the closest charging station is located, millions of consumers making the switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle are likely researching the need-to-know differences between gas-powered and plug-in. The good news is that there are many similarities and whether you select gasoline-powered, electric, or hybrid, manufacturers are committed to making things right should something go wrong.

Twenty-five of the world’s largest auto manufacturers participate in the BBB AUTO LINE program, which offers consumers a free and easy way to resolve eligible warranty-related vehicle disputes, including lemon law disputes. 

Currently, U.S. and state lemon laws apply equally to EVs, hybrids, and conventional vehicles since most were drafted prior to the advent of EVs. Defects are covered if they substantially impact the use, value, and safety of a vehicle, and vehicle manufacturers are required to repair, replace, or refund defective vehicles if they are under warranty. 

That said, there are some unique considerations surrounding EVs:

 

1. Battery Warranties: Likely Not Covered by Lemon Laws

In addition to EV warranties offering comprehensive bumper-to-bumper and powertrain coverage, federal law requires EV manufacturers to cover batteries for a minimum of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first – although some manufacturers choose to offer a warranty longer than required by law. This coverage, however, does not guarantee that if your batteries act up and cannot be fixed within that timeframe you will be able to file a lemon law claim.

Why not?

Each state has its own lemon law that defines which warranty elements are covered for filing a dispute. At this juncture, for all states except California, component or separate warranties are not covered in the statutes. Because car manufacturers are providing the battery warranty separate from the rest of the vehicle warranty, it likely will fall outside lemon law coverage guidelines. 

Also, every lemon law defines specific timeframes for filing a dispute. Depending on your state’s lemon law, the time frame for filing a lemon law dispute may be much shorter (and likely is) than the warranty for your battery.  Therefore, a dispute regarding your battery would not necessarily be considered a lemon law dispute or even regulated by your state’s lemon law.  

Although it is unlikely that you will need to make a lemon law claim due to a failed battery given the extensive coverage offered by manufacturers, perhaps states will begin to consider modifying their lemon laws to include batteries. After all, they are the most vital, expensive components of EVs and more likely to impact the use, value, and safety of the vehicle should something go wrong.

 

2. The Repair Process Can Be Different

Lemon laws provide that the manufacturer must be given a reasonable number of attempts to fix defects. Laws differ on how many times a vehicle must be taken in for repair and how long the vehicle must have been out of service to be considered a “lemon.” 

EV manufacturers that sell direct to consumers offer mobile service technicians who can perform services at your home or workplace, even if you are not there. Or, if more extensive care is required, they will pick up your vehicle, take it to an authorized service location, and return it to you.  

In addition, many issues with EVs are being resolved remotely. Connected vehicle platforms allow manufacturers to send “over-the-air” software updates from afar so your vehicle is never out of sight.   

While the repair process may vary, it does not change the essential obligation of the manufacturer to fix the defect after a reasonable number of attempts. 

 

3. Remote Care Makes Documentation More Essential  

Keeping detailed records and documentation can go a long way towards protecting your rights if you feel you have a vehicle that qualifies as a “lemon.” For EVs, it becomes even more important to track every repair attempt and the time your vehicle is out of service, whether performed at the service center, at your home or work, or “over the air.”

Ask the manufacturer how service report records are kept. Determine what documents are created that outline the work, when and how it was done, and whether it was effective. Find out how they handle “over-the-air” repairs and if they notify you when the repair has been applied and is complete.  

On a related topic: As both EVs and conventional cars become more connected to our digital lives, offering all the bells and whistles of our smartphones, smartwatches, and laptops, and vehicle telematics advance to monitor remote services and diagnostics, the amount of collected data is increasing.  

BBB National Programs is keeping a close eye on the challenges surrounding connected cars and how all of this in-vehicle data is being used. With data privacy emerging as an issue for automotive manufacturers, it may become a ripe area for developing a standardized industry self-regulation program. 

BBB AUTO LINE is one of the largest and longest-running dispute resolution programs in the United States. For the past 40 years, we have helped consumers and businesses resolve vehicle warranty, lemon law, and class action disputes in a hassle-free, timely, and cost-effective manner. To learn more about BBB AUTO LINE, or to open a claim, go to bbbautoline.org, or call us at 1-800-955-5100. 

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