The future of electric and hybrid vehicles got a big boost in the fall of 2020 when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to require that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles by the year 2035.
It’s a boon for the environment, but electric and hybrid vehicles are not immune from defects that turn a green product into a lemon.
Hybrid vs. Electric vs. PHEV
First, it helps to understand the different categories of zero-emission vehicles:
- Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) has a 100% gasoline-fueled engine but works in conjunction with an electric motor to reduce fuel consumption. HEVs get significantly better gas mileage in city driving. They are not designed to be plugged in to be charged and driven on electric power alone. Examples of HEV models include the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion.
- A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a gas-powered hybrid with a much larger battery that can be recharged by plugging it into to an external electric power source. The car is powered by the battery power, then gas engine takes over when the battery runs down. PHEV models include the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, KIA Optima Plug-in Hybrid, and BMW 330e.
- An electric vehicle (EV) runs solely on a rechargeable battery and electric motor. It has no engine and uses no gasoline. Popular EV models include the Tesla Model 3 and Nissan Leaf.
What can go wrong with a hybrid/plug-in/electric vehicle?
The advanced technology used in zero-emissions vehicles provides measurable benefits to the consumer and the environment. But it also creates the potential for such automobiles to become a lemon. Some of the more common, persistent problems encountered by hybrid and electric vehicle owners include:
- battery failures
- electrical system malfunctions
- control panel defects
- braking system problems
How the California Lemon Law protects owners of green vehicles
The California Lemon Law, formally known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, protects you by ensuring that your vehicle’s manufacturer stands behind the warranty. This includes warranties for all classes of hybrid and electric vehicles. As the owner of such a vehicle in the state of California, you are entitled to the same consumer protections that all other vehicle owners have in this state.
If you lease or purchase a zero-emissions vehicle in California and continue to experience the same problem – even after several trips to the auto repair shop – that car is probably a lemon and you likely have a valid claim under the California Lemon Law. The auto manufacturer may be legally obligated to replace or buy back the vehicle, provided most of the repairs occurred during the manufacturer’s warranty period.
If you think your electric car is a lemon
There are several critical steps to follow if you think your hybrid/plug-in or electric vehicle is a lemon:
- Keep and securely store sales receipts, all repair records and receipts, and any related paperwork associated with the purchase and repair history of the automobile. You will need this documentation in order to file a claim against the vehicle’s manufacturer.
- Initiate a reasonable number of repair efforts that are covered under the dealer’s or manufacturer’s warranty (think 3-4 visits).
- Consult an experienced lemon law attorney before the deadline passes to file a claim.
Regardless of whether your vehicle is electric or gas-powered, the California Lemon Law can be complicated and the process is not easy to navigate. But most lemon law claims in the state of California can be resolved within 90 days if you work with an attorney.