What is the Impact of Electric Vehicles on California’s Lemon Law?

Electric vehicles were once a distance pipedream. Now, they are here and just as effective (if not more effective) than gas-powered vehicles.

Back in 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that starting in 2035, all new vehicles sold in the State of California must be “zero-emission” vehicles, which includes electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles.  

In the sun-kissed valleys and bustling cities of California, we’re seeing more and more electric vehicles (EVs). But as we shift from gas to electric, what ripples does this create in the world of California’s lemon law?

Let’s discuss. 

1. What is California Lemon Law?

California lemon law – formally known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act – was put in place to protect consumers if they purchased a vehicle with manufacturer defects. The law has certain qualifications that deem a vehicle a lemon, involving the nature of the defect, the warranty terms, and repair attempts. 

If these qualifications are met, the consumer may seek legal recourse with the manufacturer – with the help of a California lemon law attorney

2. Lemon Law and EVs: The Foundations of CA Lemon Law Will Not Change

As the tide of transportation shifts towards electric vehicles (EVs), the basic principles of California’s lemon law will likely remain unchanged. 

This legal safeguard is built on a foundation that goes beyond the type of vehicle in question. It’s about providing consumers with legal protection against faulty products – and it adapts to advancements in vehicle technology.

In essence, California’s lemon law promises that if a vehicle cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts to fix a warranty-covered defect, the consumer may be entitled to a replacement or refund. This protection applies equally to EVs as it does to conventional vehicles. 

3. The Electric Shift: New Types of Defects

With the rise of EVs, the nature of vehicular defects has evolved. 

‘Substantial’ defects, a term central to lemon law claims, now encapsulate issues beyond the traditional internal combustion engine. The scope has broadened to include the unique aspects of electric mobility: sophisticated software systems and crucial battery components.

EVs are bringing in a new era in which the mechanical and the digital elements of vehicles intersect more prominently than ever before. For example, a defect in battery cell balancing software can cause range inefficiencies, potentially qualifying as a substantial defect under lemon law.

Here are some common defects we will likely see as more people drive EVs. 

4. Software Glitches

An electric vehicle’s soul is its software, quietly orchestrating everything from the charge levels to the car’s response to your acceleration requests. When this intricate system fails via software glitches, the consequences can range from inconvenient to outright dangerous. 

Recognizing the critical nature of software in EVs, California’s lemon law accounts for these digital defects. If a software glitch is irreparable and impairs the vehicle’s use, value, or safety, it is considered a “substantial” defect, potentially triggering lemon law protections. 

As we increasingly rely on software for our transportation needs, this aspect of the law ensures that consumers are not left with a high-tech vehicle that cannot reliably serve its purpose.

5. Battery Longevity 

The battery in an electric vehicle is like the heart in a human body—it must function correctly for the rest of the system to thrive. Battery longevity is essential for the vehicle’s operational integrity. When a battery degrades beyond what is reasonable for its age and mileage, it may be deemed a substantial defect under California lemon law.

California’s lemon law is already addressing battery-related issues, ensuring that EV owners are not disadvantaged by premature battery degradation. The law requires that if the battery’s capacity falls below a certain threshold and cannot be fixed, it could lead to a valid lemon law claim, just as an engine failure would in a gasoline-powered vehicle.

6. When the Extras Become Essentials

In the evolving landscape of electric vehicles, many features previously seen as luxurious add-ons are becoming indispensable. High-definition backup cameras, advanced driver-assistance systems, and even the user interfaces that control vehicle settings are no longer just nice to have; they are expected to function flawlessly to ensure the safety and operability of the vehicle.

California’s lemon law recognizes the increasing importance of these technological components. As such, when these systems fail, they are treated with the same severity as conventional mechanical failures. 

This means that if an essential accessory or system in an EV fails repeatedly, it could lead to a California lemon law claim.

7. California Lemon Law in the Age of Electric Vehicles

As we forge ahead into the era of electric vehicles, California’s lemon law remains a safeguard over consumer rights. 

However, what’s changing is the landscape of what defects look like in this new age. Electric vehicles bring an array of technological advancements and, with them, novel challenges. 

The shift to electric vehicles doesn’t just represent a change in power sources; it’s a leap into a future where vehicles are as much about computing as they are about transportation. Lemon law practitioners and consumer advocates must now become fluent in the language of electric tech, ensuring they can effectively navigate and negotiate the complexities that come with these high-tech machines.

8. Wrap Up

As we steer into the electric age, California’s lemon law will likely hold its ground, steadfast in its purpose and scope. The legal essence remains intact, yet the nature of what constitutes a ‘substantial’ defect will undeniably evolve, encompassing software malfunctions, battery issues, and accessory failures within its domain. 

It’s a journey of adaptation, and as your sage counsel, I’m here to navigate you through this evolving landscape with clarity and wisdom. Drive into the future with confidence, knowing your rights remain charged and ready, no matter the power that propels you.

Author Bio: Brian K. Cline’s Lemon Law Legal Group provides premier legal services. Our California lemon law lawyers aggressively and ethically force vehicle manufacturers to buy back defective and dangerous vehicles. Our team includes experienced trial lawyers with over 40 years of combined trial experience.

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