I haven’t seen anyone discuss the following potential issues with
1) How long do the batteries last? Five years? 10?
2) What does it cost to replace the batteries, including removal,
disposal and installation? – David
The short answer is that nobody knows – yet. The failure rate has
been less than one per cent and those were covered under warranty.
Generally speaking, the large nickel-metal-hydride batteries in
hybrid vehicles are warranted for eight years and 160,000 km. Toyota
says the nickel-metal hydride battery pack in the Prius [hev] is
good for the life of the car or almost 300,000 km.
Toyota and Honda warrant the battery pack for eight years or 160,000
km. This is not much different than the situation with a conventional
engine – they commonly last far past the warranty coverage.
Taxi fleets in various parts of the world are using hybrids,
partially because of the lower operating costs in a city environment
and partially because they get a slight price break from
manufacturers anxious to find out “worse-case” scenarios with
respect to maintenance, reliability and battery life.
Recently, the cab I hailed in Tokyo was a well-worn Prius [hev] with
more than 310,000 km on it. While the car itself was pretty much
crapped out, and there were some strange noises coming from the
drive system, the driver said it still had the original battery.
Replacement costs? Again, there is insufficient data upon which to
base an answer. In the early hybrid vehicle days, guesstimates
ranged from $4,000 to $8,000 – but they were pure guesses because
none had been replaced yet. More recent numbers lie in the $2,500 to
$4,000 range, not that much higher than a brand new engine and
transmission in a conventional car.
As is always the case, smaller will be cheaper. The pack in a Prius
[hev] will cost less than that of a Highlander [hev], for example.
Disposal and subsequent environmental damage is another issue.
If the replacement is done at a dealership it will likely comply
with local recycling laws. If done in a backyard or by a
less-than-reputable shop or person, that would not be the case. Of
course, this would be the same person or ship that would throw an
old engine out back and let it leak oil, gas and other fluids into
the ground.