First Numbers on Hybrid Battery Failure

For years, sporadic anecdotes about hybrid battery failures have been reported by individual hybrid drivers. But finally, the automakers are reporting the first numbers about the likelihood of batteries failing after the warranty expired.

With more than 100,000 Honda hybrids on the road, the automaker told Newsweek that fewer than 200 had a battery fail after the warranty expired. That’s a 0.002 likelihood. Toyota says its out-of-warranty battery replacement rate is 0.003 percent—or one out of 40,000 Priuses—for the second generation Prius. Based on this rate, and the fact that very few of the second-generation Priuses have been driven beyond the warranty period, perhaps fewer than a dozen have had battery failures after the warranty expired. Replacement rates for the first generation Prius was closer to 1 percent.

Most hybrid-producing automakers offer a warranty on hybrid components for the first 100,000 miles. In California and other states using California’s stricter emissions laws, the warranty is extended to 150,000 miles.

The next logical question is the replacement cost, which has been very difficult to determine—but the numbers are in. The cost of a new Honda hybrid battery pack ranges from $2,000 to $2,500 depending on the model. Toyota currently sells a Prius pack for about $3,000. Installation costs are approximately $900, according to the Newsweek article. Both companies plan to substantially reduce the cost of the replacement packs, as they reach economies of scale on battery production.

The hybrid battery industry is growing by leaps and bounds, as automakers prepare for a rapid increase in demand for hybrids and electric vehicles. Toyota recently announced plans to invest $673 million to build two new battery plants and expand a third. The goal is annual battery output of 1 million units by 2011.

Volkswagen—a company that has not sold its first hybrid—announced yesterday that it will partner with Japan’s Sanyo Electric to manufacture next-generation lithium ion batteries. Sanyo, which produces hybrid batteries for Ford and has agreements with a number of other carmakers, is investing $769 million to expand production. Earlier this month, Nissan—with limited hybrid sales so far—announced plans to build a battery production facility with NEC Corp, with the goal of ramping up annual production from 13,000 units initially to 65,000 units. As Volkswagen, Nissan and nearly every other major automaker join the race toward hybrids and electric vehicles, establishing a supply of durable, powerful, high-energy batteries could become a make-or-break proposition.


  • 38mpg

    If you have provided some comparison data from other industriesproducts that would be very helpful. For example what is the failure rate of batteries in Sony/Panasonic/Canon cameras? What is the failure rate of batteries in power tools?

  • Need2Change

    The data on the cost of replacement nickel batteries is interesting. I’ve heard numbers as high as $9K. Good that the price is less than $5K for a nickel battery.

    Unfortunately, the price to replace a lithium battery will be much greater — probably in excess of $10K.

    The data concerning out-of-warranty battery replacement is distorted. One should compare the number of out of warranty battery replacements with the number of vehicles that are out of warranty–and not the total number of vehicles. With 100K or 150K warranties and since a majority of hybrids were sold in the last two years, I bet that less than 5 percent of hybrids are out of warranty.

    Excluding “in warranty” replacement from the data is also deceiving.

    It would be more interesting knowing of hybrids 5 to 8 years old, how many had battery replacements (either in or out of warranty).

  • Paul Rivers

    “It would be more interesting knowing of hybrids 5 to 8 years old, how many had battery replacements (either in or out of warranty).”

    That’s a good point – that would be interesting.

  • wagsbags

    I agree with what has been said; these numbers aren’t worth very much. I WANT RAW DATA!

  • Steven H

    Improper charging of Lithium polymer batteries may be a factor with battery failure. Which is why they are probably going hybrid instead of full electric.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t the point that hybrid batteries almost never fail? Even when looking just at hybrids past warranty, the numbers seem quite low.

  • Gap Spanner

    Now if Toyota can just acknowledge the issues with the headlights on the 2006 Prius and replace the bulbs under warranty. I’ve had my Prius for two years and the dealer tells me that the computers that control the headlights went bad, causing my headlights to suddenly go out for no apparent reason (real nice on a dark, rainy back road). They’ll cover the computer components, but insist that the HID bulbs be replaced at the same time – at MY cost – of $300 per bulb!

    I’m in the midst of arguing with them now. (BTW, that’s Titus Will Toyota in Tacoma, WA, in case anyone else is having issues as well).

  • Need2Change

    I suspect that hybrids that allow electric only operation up to 25 mph such as the Ford Escape and GM dual hybrids will have a much greater failure rate. The 2009 Prius is rumored to have this feature as well, so the pre-2008 battery data may not apply to the 2009 Prius.

    The Volt will also have a higher failure rate since it will rely largely on the battery.

    And the Prius Plug-in will have a much higher failure rate than the normal Prius.

  • Jeff

    Wow! A lot of interest in this story but and some interesting comments.

    1. Improper charging of a LiPo or LiIon battery will damage it but it is a very easy issue to address with a proper charging circuit. I charge my LiPo batteries all the time and use them at maximum capacity with no problems. All Lithium batteries can be charged faster than NiMh systems. So the failure rate on a Li battery system will be more related to faulty manufacture and physical damage. The story data did not indicate reason for battery failure.

    2. Running a car at higher speeds will not impact battery life it simply uses more electrical energy and drains the battery faster. My Gen II Prius will run all electric up to 35 or 40 mph on a flat road.

    3. As for failure rate on battery systems, what is the failure rate on ICE vehicles out of warranty? And how many ICE vehicles come with a 100,000 mile warranty any way?

  • 4now

    For me the NiMH Batteries seems to be running ok.
    The problem is the M in NiMH because it stands for Rare Earth Mischmetall (Neodymium, Lanthanum,…) The chinese produce 96%
    of these elements. And they control the market for them. In each of the new hybrids there are 20kg of Rare Earth.
    An artikel about this can be found at
    http://www.resourceinvestor.com/pebble.asp?relid=43162

  • Jon

    This clip is poorly written… It reads like it was commissioned BY the auto industry cherry picking facts.

    #1 What percentage of vehicles out of warranty needed battery replacement?

    #2 How does that rate compare to major service on a conventional automobile. What is the correpsponding failure ratre for engines? transmissions?

  • ToddW

    Most of the replacement costs I’ve herd from fellow Honda Insight owners are closer to 5K-6K but, I can only remember one instance where Honda did not warranty the battery regardless of mileage. It is in the car mfg best interest to not let these costs get the the consumer because I’ll be the first to say if I have to spend 5-6K I WILL NOT buy another hybrid in the future. My $.02

  • Need2Change

    Todd, I agree that it’s in the manufacturer’s interest to to keep battery replacement costs to a minimum.

    There’s traditionally been two criticisms of hybrids.

    One, they cost too much to buy (which we hear about all the time), and

    Two, they may not retain residual value. Some believe that at a certain point a hybrid will be worth less than a comparable non-hybrid. A 8-year old Camry non-hybrid with 100,000 would be worth more than a 8-year old Camry hybrid that’s got over 100K and soon will need a $5K battery replacement.

    Toyota has done a good job hiding the second concern. And it fact, hybrids with 100,000 are still commanding excellent resale values. This may change when we start hearing stories of people needing $5K batteries for their 8-10 year old car.

    That said, I have been impressed with how durable the hybrid batteries have been.

  • SEEK

    Consumer Reports in their April 2008 Auto Edition rated the V6 Toyota Camry “Below” average in reliability.

    The V4 Camry and the Hybrid Camry both got above average ratings in reliability.

    Fortunately we bought a 2008 Hybrid Camry.

    We’re extremely happy that we bought the Camry Hybrid…. not just because of the better gas mileage, but also for the increase in reliability!

    Now if the Batteries last as long as they predict. I’ll be happier than a two-tailed puppy!

    Peace….

  • hybrid driver 63 mpg

    The data have not been provided for vehicles still under warranty. I happen to know that my 2000 Honda Insight was subject to a quiet type of under-warranty replacement policy for batteries AND IMA charge controlling system (together the ticket for these items would have been close to $9k, the dealer told me). From the information I received, I recall the cost being closer to $5k just for the battery. Maybe that is with a 100 percent markup by the dealer??

    Anyway, I have concluded this data report is biased because as others have pointed out it only includes cars that are out of warranty. My car got a new battery at 7 years (under warranty) and I expect the replacement will last at least another 7-10 years…

  • 911k9

    I have 135,000 on my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid and the IMA light came on. I had my dealership check it out and they said that the hybrid batteries need to be replaced. So, I must be one of those 200…

  • Jhamilt331

    OK,
    Seems this is a major defect. The dealer and Toyota corp. rep. did not mention that there are a large number of these headlight failure incidents.
    I’ve been googling this and find it to be a large scale problem.
    Reported it to NHTSA and suggest that anyone else do so. The failure have been completely unpredictable, in total darkeness, and at speeds between 35 and 65.
    I guess it takes someone getting killed to get them to own the problem and recall.
    I plan to give them the opportunity to fix it and if not, take them to court.
    jh

  • JohnSal

    I just was quoted $3k + $300 labor to replace my 2005 Civic Hybrid Battery by a Honda dealer.

  • MERLIN NAGEL

    I FOUND AN ATTORNEY THAT IS SUPPOSEDLY DOING A CLASS ACTION ON THIS. MY 06 PRIUS IS DOING THIS SO I AM GOING TO CONTACT THEM, PH NO. IS 866 981 4800 OR 415 981 4800, THEY ARE LOCATED IN SACRAMENTO, CA.

  • leekshuster

    Hi,

    I’m a newbie here and have a 2004 HCH Manual that just turned over 85,000 miles. I bought the car in 2006 with 53,000 miles, from a local Honda Certified Used Car dealer. The car has seen mostly urban driving cycles the past 2 years, with the occasional bi-monthly highway trip. A/C does see seasonal use in May-Sept.

    On a side note: I recently replaced the under-hood 12V battery (this was NOT really necessary, I just wanted the peace-of mind with winter fast approaching),

    And as far as I know the IMA (144V) battery module has never been replaced. The car performs well and typically gets an indicated 38 – 42 mpg in city use and close to 50 mpg highway. (We do live at 5000 ft ASL, which reduces mileage and power.)

    About a week ago the IMA and CHECK Engine lights came on. (P1600 and P1433). At the time they come on the SoC dropped from 75% to roughly half that. Throttle response becomes noticeably sluggish, but the REGen/ASSist meter still works. And the SoC gradually moves up and down. The most I have seen it come back to is about 67 % when the codes are thrown.

    When I clear the codes, I observe the following: REGen/ASSist immediately at idle shows (GREEN) charge and the SoC rapidly comes up to 100% within a couple of minutes. When the car is driven, throttle response is crisp and instrumentation shows “like-new” REGen/ASSist and SoC behavior in urban driving.

    Then, usually with a day or so (usually less than 20-miles) the same codes return (P1600/P1433).

    To the best of knowledge, the ECM has NOT been re-flashed or “Upgraded” by Honda.

    1) Is there a way to determine the ECM Version level? Especially, from the factory built original version?

    2) If a Honda dealer flashes the ECM, will it potentially mask the P1433 code? Making AH less likely to replace the IMA battery of DC-DC converter under warranty?

    3) What is actually happening when the P1433 code is thrown? It seems to put the system into “LIMP” or “LAME” mode? This obviously affects the performance (Power and fuel economy) and places greater wer and tear on the ICE powertrain?

    4) Does anyone have experience with Honda’s Certified Used Car POWERTRAIN Warranty or Third-Party Warranties, with respect to premature IMA failures? I still have mileage and time remaining on my AH Certifed Used Car POWERTRAIN Warranty. Is the IMA Battery considered a POWERTRAIN component, or excluded because it is a battery?

    5) Have any other Honda Civic Hybrid owners here joined the Class Action Suit against American Honda? See: http://www.hchsettlement.com/default.htm

    Any advice (or dare I say Insights?) would be greatly appreciated.

  • Abdullahi

    i have a honda civic hybrid 2007 but my ima battrey is not good the miles is 40,000miles i dont know what to do how can i reboost or purchase the battery so i can use the car am currently residing in Lagos Nigeria.

  • Joeseph

    Please update this page. It’s almost 4 years later. I’d like to know if the predictions were accurate. I have a 2004 Prius. I bought it used in Arizona 3 years ago from it’s original owner with 105k on it. I live in California It’s now up to about 124k. Am I covered under California’s 150k warranty on the traction battery?

  • sUSAN

    I agree…I know people who have had failure within the time limit, but they DRIVE their car, so it’s out of warranty becasue of the milage, not the time!

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