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The Great Hybrid Battery Debate



  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    A friend to whom I've sold two, a Gen 1 and a Gen 2, this week will cross 200,000 miles since January 2004. He posts here occasionally as 'Carbot'. He will hit 250,000+ before the Gen 3s arrive next summer. I'll await his 'official' report.

    76,000+ miles in 30 mo's and running strong here.

    Resales? Real life situation. With the Prius being sold out across the country again, for the 4 time out of the 6 yrs it's been out, two people this week asked me if I wanted to sell them my 2005 with 76000 miles ( but then what would I drive 150 mi / day? ). At $18000 they said no...but at $16000 they both were interested in the 3 y.o. standard model with 5 yrs of mileage in it.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    And can you point out a "half-truth" in that article for me? I missed them I guess..

    Only pointing out the one in every hundred batteries replaced on out of warranty Prius. How many were out of warranty? Those figures are all so easily twisted to look good. Unless we know how many of the batteries have been replaced total we know very little about the reliability of the batteries. How many after 5000 miles or 30k miles. Like you say it would be crazy for Toyota to be honest about failures until they are forced to by a recall.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    Those figures are from those that are wasting our limited natural resources. :shades:

    Not the average driver. If the 15k mile average carries over to the Prius, most owners are not close to being out of warranty on the battery. The oldest 2nd gen Prius is just past 4 years and 8 months. If I remember correctly they were in very short supply for the first couple years. So most of the Prius on the road today are under 2 years and 30K miles.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Gary says, "Unless we know how many of the batteries have been replaced total we know very little about the reliability of the batteries. How many after 5000 miles or 30k miles?

    I'd have to say, and so would YOU, since you frequent these forums, that if there were a lot of them being replaced with that mileage, WE WOULD KNOW ABOUT IT !!

    The owners would be posting that in the forums, reporting it to news agencies, and to NTHSA on their complaint website. I'm going right now to look at complaints about battery replacements by owners and I will post again when I have data.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    No one at NHTSA complaint site mentioned a failed battery under warranty at 5000 miles or 30K miles.

    Also looking at the Prius area in this forum - none so far, other than one lady who says 'Yota told her she "jump started it wrong" and made her pay $4800 for a replacement. I doubt we have the whole story on that one.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    No one at NHTSA complaint site mentioned a failed battery under warranty at 5000 miles or 30K miles

    I am assuming there were no failed batteries on NHTSA at any mileage from your post. Those were just numbers. Though from what I have read on the ODI site. Most of the complaints are when they did not get satisfaction from the dealer and or manufacturer. An owner would have no reason to complain if he was experiencing trouble with his hybrid and went in and the dealer fixed the problem. How would they know if a battery was replaced? Unless they reset the computer and sent them on their way, as so often happens. We shall see how well the Hybrid batteries age as time goes by.........
  • gwmortgwmort Posts: 22
    I've got 101,000 on my first gen Prius and no problems so far. My local dealer said hes never even had to change the brakes on any Prius yet. Low maintenance ftw!
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    Did you have a recall on the battery posts that can leak? Or was that just the ones sold in the EU? Did you switch to different tires right away? regen braking does seem to make the brakes last a long time on the hybrids. Keep us posted. There are first gens with 200k miles and still going strong.
  • toyolla2toyolla2 Posts: 158
    Gary, as skeptical as ever ! You're targetting specifically the Prius I notice. Perhaps the moderators should move this to the Prius section.

    Your post #599 raises some concern. I too am not impressed with high mileage cars. It says much for the electrical and mechanical components and the fact that the car is well put together. It really says nothing about the state of the internal battery chemistry in those cars.

    The Prius population is indeed top heavy towards the younger vehicles now that you've pointed it out. Weren't they offering incentives in May of 2007 just to get them off the lots after the tax credits were no longer available ?

    But age is not the only enemy of batteries. Outside parking in below freezing temperatures (due to the Peukert effect) reduces chemical activity of all batteries.

    In all cases the Prius is only marginally effected. Battery degradation is more serious for the mild hybrids, like the Honda Civic Hybrid, where the vehicle gradually becomes hybrid in name only, as some owners have found. Of course the Civic scores well because of its smaller 1.3L engine. With regen providing only 2% advantage in City driving, mild hybrids rely solely on attempts to load level the engine output with the electric motor assist.. Although how a 15kw motor can load level a 240Hp V6 beats me and I wasn't surprised when the Honda Accord Hybrid was pulled after just two model years. But I digress.

    The thing is that major degradation is one thing that could slip under the door for many people who weren't monitoring too closely. I have written in the past that Toyota's system would still give most of the benefits of hybridisation without a battery. As they are built today however a weak battery would still be acceptable until the Check Engine Light comes on.

    With only a small population of cars at 8 years old, I have to agree with Gary. It may be too soon to say that this isn't going to be a problem. What we have a handle on right now are infant mortality problems with this battery which are pretty much non existent. GM has a 9,000 unit recall already on their Cobasys units by comparison.
    And yes I support that we will need a larger population of older models before we can say for sure that battery aging by the calendar (rather than cycling) is not going to be a problem.
    The Prius battery has been repriced down to $2000 with $1000 installation fee, if this could fall further the problem (in the light of $5 gas) could go away. Finally it is not beyond the realm of possibility that an aftermarket upconverter could be designed and fitted, at a lower price, to put 900W on to the high voltage bus from the existing lead acid - to start the engine and for very limited mobility under electric drive as per my 'virtual battery' suggestion elsewhere on Edmunds.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    I concede to your knowledge on things mechanical & electrical. I am not just picking on hybrids as the direction of all cars is toward short years and high mileage. Those of us that do not drive a lot are stuck with all the little problems that age will bring out in vehicles. It seems to me that most of the problems with be sensors and computer modules. The engines seem to be built to last longer than ever. And of course the batteries aging will be a big concern especially with Li-Ion. I am not as skeptical of the NiMH batteries as I have used them in laptops for 7 years without dying.

    So I imagine the battery debate will go on for some time. My advice is to those so unfortunate as to have a long commute. A hybrid can be a good choice. For me that will let a car sit for a month or more without driving it, hybrids are nothing but additional problems.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    That's a very nicely written and well-balanced post, as are your others on the HSD subject. Thanks for the insider expertise.
  • kwatts59kwatts59 Posts: 2
    I have a 12volt solar panel and I want to use it to charge my Prius car battery. I want to use less gasoline and rely on solar electric power. Is it possible?
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    The only battery you can charge with that solar panel is the small battery that keeps things ready to go. It would be advantageous if you leave your car idle for weeks at a time. Otherwise it will do nothing to save gas.
  • kwatts59kwatts59 Posts: 2
    I was just wondering because I keep my car in the sun all the time, I dont park in a garage or covered parking. I also live in the desert in southern Nevada, the sunniest state in America. I just wanted to know if I can save a couple of miles per gallon. Every little bit helps. :)
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    The battery that you would need to charge to give you better mileage is the traction battery. It is a high voltage NiMH battery. There is no user access to that battery. You would void your warranty by trying to add anything to that system. The 12 volt battery is strictly for keeping the onboard computer active. It has nothing to do with the drive train. If you were to convert to a plug in Hybrid you could add a solar charging system and then you would save both gas and electricity. It looks like there will be some plug in hybrid options in 2010. That would be your best option.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    houdini1 says, "You are conveniently forgetting that at 8 years you have to replace the batteries in the Prius at a cost of $8,000. That adds up to $1,000 cost per year."

    This statement is very misleading to the uninitiated. Allow me to point out the problems with it so that not one person is confused by the reality:

    1. If you live in a CARB state, the warranty is 10 yrs/150K miles.

    2. No one in HISTORY has paid $8,000 for a Prius battery replacement. It has not and will not ever happen. The cost is far less than that, and it rarely if ever is paid ENTIRELY by the consumer.

    3. There is no guarantee that a Prius owner will EVER have to replace a traction battery, and in particular there is no reason to believe that the ENTIRE battery system will fail and need replacement. Replacements such as that are VERY VERY rare. So rare, in fact, that it is difficult to even find a story about it happening that can withstand fact-checking and scrutiny.

    4. I know of no one in a CARB state who has posted that the Prius battery failed outside of warranty. Not one instance of the current generation Prius having a battery replacement outside of warranty has been reported, as far as I can find.

    5. The cost of replacing a Prius battery is no different than having to pay for replacing an engine in a similar car. And everyone knows that people pay for replaced engines SO OFTEN these days !!!!!!

    So - is there a RISK of the Prius having a problem after 8-12 years of ownership in which a battery replacement will have to be paid for by the owner of the car? Of course there is a risk of that.

    But it is not any more likely than a Malibu blowing an engine after 8-12 years. At least as far as ACTUAL CASES have gone.

    There are even very few cases of the original Prius (first sold in the USA almost exactly 8 years ago now) needing a replacement battery. Those stories can be found but are also VERY VERY rare.

    Prices for used Prius batteries—which come from junkyards and auto body shops—range from $450 to $1,700, says Famous Rhodes, director of eBay Motors parts and accessories.

    Similarly, Toyota's Prius battery is down to $3,000 from $5,500.

    The good news, though, is that the chances of needing to replace the battery in your hybrid is low, even after the warranty coverage is up. Honda says that less than 200 of its hybrid batteries have failed post-warranty, despite over 100,000 vehicles on the road. How about Toyota? Its post-warranty battery replacement rate sits at just 0.003 percent.

    Modern hybrid vehicles are designed to minimize the strain on their high-power batteries. Battery management systems have been programmed to only allow a certain amount of the battery's available charge to dissipate, which greatly extends the life of the unit. So, when considering a hybrid vehicle, perhaps the battery shouldn't be too much of a deterrent.

  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    The poster to whom you replied has rarely made any posts with accurate info concerning the hybrids. He continues to refuse to do any research and verify if his misconception has any basis in reality.

    But in the limited circle to which he's responding it plays well, it doesn't matter whether it's true or not. "The Yanks are gonna take it all again this year", says one Bronx bar patron to the others... "Yeah you said it!" comes back the reply.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    The question is HOW LONG would you have to wait for a replacement battery on the rare occasion that one fails. If there is a shortage as Toyota says, how many spares are in the USA waiting that possible failure? Same goes for the first gen batteries? Or will the unlucky Prius owner have to wait until the new factory is built? :shades:
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    How many angels will fit on the head of a pin.

    Both points are so are far from the realm of reality that the answer just doesn't matter. The occurances are so rare that when and if one does ever happen, just like your Sequoia, and a customer is put out of a vehicle by a warranty issue there is replacement transportation - of equal type - available at one of the TRAC outlets.
  • avalon02whavalon02wh Posts: 726
    Good information.

    Let me also add that a battery replacement costs would need to be averaged over the total life of the car, not just the first 10 years. However, a battery replacement cost should be applied to the future life of the car. An owner replacing batteries would see a cost for years 10 to 20 (assuming the batteries are replaced at year 10 and last to year 20).

    Battery replacement, as you pointed out, really isn't much of an issue as it turns out. The same folks that bring up the Prius batteries also conveniently ignore the lack of reliability from a certain manufacturer that happens to be introducing a new diesel car this year.

    I am definitely convinced that the battery issue is now a non-issue - the NiMH batteries anyway. Not sure about the Li-Ion batteries yet. The issue was probably the only issue that was really standing in the way of me buying a hybrid in the future.
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