How Long Do Hybrid Batteries Last?

For almost five years, I have operated three Toyota Priuses as a Yellow Cab – with no failures. The first Prius, a 2001 model, was put on the road Nov. 1, 2000, and acquired 332,000 kms [approx. 200,000 miles] in 25 months. The components that did wear out were not hybrid related components.

The battery system on the Prius is a modular system made of six 1.2-volt cells connected in series to form one module. There are a total of 38 modules in the classic Prius [1996-2003] and 28 modules in the current model. The system is designed to maintain a charge state between 40% – 80% in order to minimize memory build up in the batteries. Having had the opportunity to talk with Alain Lee, product training consultant for the Prius division at Toyota Canada, he stated the life expectance of the batteries would be a minimum of 15 years in normal use with the nickel metal hydride battery. This is based on 20,000 kms or 12,000 miles per/year. This claim is based on the information gathered from my 2001 Prius, which went back to Japan to be disassembled for technical information after 25 months use as a taxi, in exchange I received a 2003 Prius. The current model has an even more efficient battery – with additional connection points at the lower part of the cells. The internal resistance has been reduced by this improvement. The bottom line is that the new battery pack is more efficient in every respect from size, power, and life expectancy.

The cost the batteries to replace for the classic model including labour would be $5,000.00 cdn if you had to replace the whole pack. Because it’s modular, you would only replace defective cells within the module. The classic model has a total of 228 cells in 38 modules and the current model has 168 cells. The cost of an individual cell would be approx. $17.00 cdn. Toyota has yet to release a price for battery replacement on the current model. As more hybrids are built, the cost will drop. The current manufacturer of the batteries is Panasonic.

The Toyota Highlander and Lexus 400h both currently use lithium ion batteries, which would have an even longer life span. The trend for the future would be to eventually do away with batteries all together and move into capacitors.

This information is based on my actual service records as a Yellow Cab in Vancouver B.C., Canada, Toyota University Technical manuals for the classic model Prius, current model and conversations with Alain Lee Consultant Product Training for Toyota Canada.

Andrew Grant is the world’s first hybrid taxi driver. He introduced his Prius taxi to the not-so-mean streets of Vancouver in 2000, and logged 200,000 miles in just 25 months. Andrew’s Prius was snatched by Toyota. The automaker wanted a chance to study the durability of the hybrid batteries and other components, which held up amazingly well. See this video for details. He’s now driving his third Prius. Andrew has taken a break from taxi-driving, and now works as a professional coach helping his clients achieve personal excellence in various fields of endeavor.


  • stsmart

    This info should bw widely circulated, as the
    biggest comment I get from non-hybrid owners
    is “Yea, but what about the cost of replacing those
    batteries?”

    -Stan Smart
    Kalamazoo, MI

  • Guest

    I stand corrected concerning the batteries in the Highland + Lexus RX400h. This information was given to me before the production models were finalized.

    The important thing to remember is that Toyota is looking into using capacitors. In the mean time the cost of the batteries will continue to come down as more are being produced.

  • Guest

    Interesting article. Thanks guys.
    Things to consider are the by-products and energy producing batteries (of any kind) and their impacts on environment as a whole. I believe hybrids are better solutions though.

  • Guest

    The Highlander and RX400h do not use Li-ion batteries. They use Panasonic NiMH in a different package than the Prius. Li-ion likely would NOT last longer than NiMH. There is hope that they could be developed to do so.

    Interesting article.

  • Guest

    What’s a capcitator? How is it different from a battery?

  • mirapope

    Does anyone know what the life of the battery pack used in the Honda INsight might be? Mine is a 2002 with 63K on it.

  • orenglan

    To find out more about capacitors, visit
    http://www.nrel.gov/vehiclesandfuels/energystorage/feature_ultra.html
    I’ve found out a lot about hybrid and fuel cell research in america from nrel.

  • EMdragon001

    The battle is not just with technology. If you were receiving .50 on a gal of gas as the Fed does or if you were invested in oil would you want to have batteries powering vehicles. And then there is the oil lobby who have won huge incentives in the energy bill for big oiil to explore and when you have an administration hell bent on oil there will be a tough row to hoe.
    The war will be fought on two fronts…..

  • oj

    I have Insight s/n 152, bought in 1999. It has about 95,000 miles on it and the batteries are doing just fine.

  • Guest

    ” If you were receiving .50 on a gal of gas as the Fed does “

    The Feds get a little over 18 cents per gallon, then taxes vary by state. Here’s a 2002 list of the rates (which may be out of date somewhat):
    http://www.energy.ca.gov/gasoline/statistics/gas_taxes_by_state_2002.html

    And here’s some history on the Federal gas tax:
    http://www.artba.org/economics_research/reports/gas_tax_history.htm

  • oj

    In answer to a question from Jack, 1999 Insight s/n 152′s lifetime average gas mileage is 54.9. (95K miles).

    I used it for brutal commuting service year round in Boston during the big dig era.

  • Guest

    “Having had the opportunity to talk with Alain Lee, product training consultant for the Prius division at Toyota Canada, he stated the life expectance of the batteries would be a minimum of 15 years in normal use with the nickel metal hydride battery.”

    The statement in the above article about the life expectancy of a NiMH battery is misleading.

    Expect only a couple of years of life for a properly cared for NiMH battery, even in a best-case scenario. The whole pack system can easily last that long, but all of the cells would be replaced at least 3 times over a 15 year period. If you’ve gotten 5 years of life out of NiMH batteries, you’ve done well.

    NiMH batteries also can suffer permanent damage at ambient temperatures below -4 degrees Fahrenheit, causing their capacity to be permanently reduced. I’d be concerned about my batteries during January and February, where temps in the northeast often dip to -10F or -15F. The batteries are pretty much excess weight being dragged around at these temperatures.

  • Guest

    I have an 02 Prius in the northeast US, and it has been through 3 winters with regular below 0F temps. I have noticed no change in the battery capacity or performance. So Dave, please give links to your statement on NiMH suffering permanant damage at low temps. Actually it is documented and known that Lead Acid batteries are damaged by low temps and freezing, but I have never heard about NiMH batteries having that problem. I have 93000 miles on my Prius.

  • Guest

    I would be interested in a Prius if it had a larger battery pack and could be plugged in when parked. It seems to me this would be easy to do and make the Prius a real electric car part of the time. Does anyone know if Toyota is considering this, or is it not feasible. thnks

  • bradhtms

    I have a 2004 Prius. It has 60,000 miles on it in 18 months. I watch the batttery charge level a lot to see if the regeneration time on the coasting mode from Reno to Sacto is changing with time. So far no indication of cell deterioration. Totota “extra care” stated my cost to replace is $2200 and there is no modular solution, you have to buy the whole unit.

    I am counting on the Prius to get me to 150,000 miles or 15 years which ever come first. That is warranty of the Plan 9 car I bought with all inclusive insurance.

  • Guest

    One point I want made clear that this was a vehicle that was being used as a taxi not a private vehicle….if you were to also take in consideration that the vehicle is on the road 22-24 hours a day 7 days a week and was never built to be used as a taxi. I think if you talked to other taxi owners around the world about the amount of money they would spend in parts and labour in the same distance driven as on this Prius, you would find that they are spending more money and down time then those that own Prius’s as taxis….in all fairness if you were to make a comparison should it not be with a Toyota truck? One of the reasons I love Toyota is that when you replace a part outside the warranty period you recieve a lifetime parts and labour for no charge replacement if it needs to be replaced again…that includes taxi’s.

  • lwebb82

    The gas price solution is ALREADY HERE. It’s wind power and EVs. The stop-gap PHEV (Pluggable Hybrid Electric Vehicle) gets from 100 to 250 mpg (depending upon how many batteries you put in it),
    RIGHT NOW. Here’s info on that: http://tinyurl.com/9rpky
    Also, here’s my prediction for the NEAR future. My dream is to have wind turbines in every community. GE makes a nice little 1.5MW turbine
    (http://tinyurl.com/d7d7a ) that would be ideal for small communities (200-300 homes). Couple that with the new Toshiba Nano Lithium Ion battery
    breakthrough (http://tinyurl.com/8wvja ), which would be perfect for EVs. Electric car technology has been waiting for 80 years for a battery breakthrough like this. These EVs would be extremely practical, cheap (if built in the USA by robots), simple (electric motors in each wheel, no transmissions), non-polluting, and not use any more rotting dinosaur juice (that’s what I call oil) — or coal, either, if power came from community wind turbines. Solar needs a few breakthroughs to equal wind power, even with gov’t incentives. The GE turbines last 30+ years, pay for themselves in <10 years, keep birds away by ultra sound, are practically zero maintenance, and use the grid (via net-metering) for power storage (no batteries), and actually MAKE money (pay for themselves immediately) in high wind areas.

  • Guest

    RE: “The components that did wear out were not hybrid related components.” I’ve been wondering whether the hybrid components will help prolong the life of the standard components, e.g., less wear on brakes given use of regenerative breaking, longer engine life because of shut down while stopped, boost from electric motor, etc. I have a 2004 Prius, and when it was inspected last winter at over 25k miles, the brake wear was negligible.
    There’s been a lot of discussion in various forums about whether the hybrids are cost-effective based on gas savings (IMO they are), but I think cost-effectiveness should be based on full life-cycle, from delivery to final demise in the junk yard. Further, there’s quite a bit of embedded energy in the production of a vehicle (parts, assembly, delivery, etc.), so the longer the car can be maintained at reasonable cost, the greater the energy savings overall.

  • EMdragon001

    I stand corrected on the .50 per gal. for the feds but the total tax from government on fuel approaches the amount.

  • DTichelkamp

    Regarding Bob Fearn, Aug 26, 2005. I would refer you to a Springfield News Leader article of August 14, 2005 where Ron Gremblen, an engineer in Corte Madera, California hooked up batteries at a cost of $3,000US and got over 80 mph. I run a Prosecutor’s Office Child Support Division in Springfield, Missouri and we are seriously looking at a Hybrid for our deputies. I also talked with University of California, Davis engineering professor Andy Frank who has made hybrids that get 250 mpg, although they cost from 150 to 250thousad dollaus US each, and he told me to seriously look at the Prius as the other ones mimic it. I am looking at all before we commit to be certain.

  • opeltjs

    Does anyone know details on the diesel hybrid that Ford is supposed to release in a year or two?

  • Guest

    nobody knows about diesel hybrid from ford, probably ford doesnt know anything either.

    Toyota has already started selling diesel hybrids in Japan, since early 2004.

  • batmanmjp

    Has anyone here upgraded there prius to a bigger battery system. I am told it can get up to 180 miles per gallon modified to fit a bigger system. I alo want to know if anyone here has added solar because in az it would extend the life of the batteries and improve gas aconomy up to 10 more miles per gallon. I would apreciate any contact regarding this.

  • balmerbhoy

    I used own an early sixties Plymouth Savoy sedan. No power anything. Manual transmission and no ignition safety switch on the tranny. I could go to an intersection that was higher than where I was going and by going at just the right speed I would get all green lights with the engine off. If the light I was approaching was going to be red I slowed down by working the clutch. The gas mileage for normal driving was in the upper teens but it was doubled for me cause I am used the engine for half my driving. Btw all cars are hybrids cause they all got batteries which store power to be used when the generator can’t produce enough juice from the engine turning over. Every heard of a diesel electric locomotive? Hybrids have been around since before Herbert Walker, Pres. Bush’s great grandfather, sold his first bond for Adolf Hitler.

  • john

    “There are a total of 38 modules in the classic Prius [1996-2003]“
    This is slightly incorrect. The “Classic” Prius, as you folk call it in the U.S. was produced from 2000 – 2003, not from 1996. The model produced from 1997 – 1999 (although some were registered as year 2000 cars) was only sold on the japanese domestic market. This was thier “shakedown” model and had a totally different type of battery pack. To see more details go to: http://www.cleangreencar.co.nz/page/prius-history

  • Guest

    I saw this in australia (Seems to be a lot of resistance to the whole Hybrid thing at least in this media outlet) At least there is a bit of exposure I suppose
    http://carpoint.ninemsn.com.au/car-news/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabID=500648&ArticleID=5487&R=ce5487
    Over here the hybrid taxi is only just starting to be tested -
    http://carpoint.ninemsn.com.au/car-review/1595206.aspx

  • cvaldaisnotbig

    I just spoke to Manhattan Ford Lincoln Mercury and they say the battery would cost $6,913 with a $1,000 deposit returned when they get the old battery. But there’s no idea of what the labor would be since they’ve never sold one. My only question is if these things are used in New York, where cabbies can blow through 100,000 miles in a year, how long will the new Ford Escape Hybrid batteries last since they’re only covered for 1 year or 12,000 miles according to Manhattan Ford?

  • Guest

    It sounds to me like there will be a lot of used hybrids on the used car market when it comes time to replace batteries. When replacing batteries I have always been told to replace ALL batteries so they are the same age and all that charges at the same rate.

  • Guest

    Just a quick update on hybrid battery life expectance….the 2004 Prius being used as a Yellow Cab 15 in Vancouver B.C. currently has 415,000 kms (240,000 miles approx.) with no battery replacement issues… the taxi will be going back to Japan shortly to be disassembled as was the 2001 in exchange for a new Prius.,,,

  • Guest

    Hi Andrew, you mention there were non-hybrid system components that wore out – could you pls explain which ones those were?

    I’m considering buying a used ’04 or ’05 Prius, and am wondering whether it’s worth getting one that extends the 36mo/36k warranty to 7yr/75k or 7yr/100k. Here are the things that are excluded from the extended warranty:
    http://www.toyotafinancial.com/pyv/extended_service_coverage/n_components_nc.html

    I found a copy of the ’04 service guide online here:
    http://john1701a.com/prius/prius-maintain04.htm

    Here’s really all it mentions:
    - oil & filter every 5k
    - cabin & engine air filters every 30k
    - engine & inverter coolant at 100k
    - spark plugs at 120k

    From what I’ve read elsewhere, it seems like the Prius uses a timing chain, rather than a belt, and there’s no recommended replacement mileage for that, which could either be seen as a positive (“it’ll never break”) or a negative (“it could break on me without warning”).

    Just wondering if your experience with servicing the cars jives with the above, and if you ever had a timing chain or anything else break on you.

    Also, have you heard any rumblings from Toyota about these future Prius rumors (turbo w/ LiIon battery)?
    http://www.leftlanenews.com/2006/06/06/next-toyota-prius-to-use-turbocharger-to-achieve-94-mpg/

    Thanks!

  • Guest

    The components that were non-hybrid that had to be replaced on the 2004 Prius Taxi over 420,000 kms were:
    -airconditioning temperature sensor
    -front struts at 170,000 kms

    Never had a timing chain go…we are using Mobile 1 synthetic since the first service.

    If you should get the extended warranty….the car comes with a pretty good warranty….plus after the warranty period, when you replace anything you get a lifetime parts replacement on that component….my big question would be how the previous owner took care of the car….

    Concerning rumors at Toyota about a turbo with Lithium Ion….the up comming 2008 Prius is suppose to get 94 mpg US city with a battery only on range of 9 miles….no word on the turbo…that is what I have heard from Toyota so far…

  • Guest

    Andrew, thanks for the info. Sounds very reliable, and the parts replacement policy is a big plus.

    I hope that Toyota enables plugging in the ’08 for home recharging!!

  • pumpspalace

    Ive just bought a 2006 prius brand new to be used as a taxi and am delighted with the car i hope i get the same longevity as andrew , i roughly do 1300 miles a week so fingers crossed and also im in northern ireland and toyota dealers here give a 8 yr 100.000 mile warr on hybrid and 60.000 miles 3 yrs on everything else so itl get tested cheers jim

  • Jesse Rudavsky

    Hello everyone. Jesse here from Hingham MA. I currently drive a 2002 prius with over 254k miles. Same batteries and no problems. Vehicle runs like new even recently blasted up to 100mph on a level ground in Quebec with no trouble. To see a some pics, go to http://www.john1701a.com. Go to owners and click on Jesse.

  • Jesse Rudavsky

    Now at 283,000 miles and counting. Same batteries with no trouble.

  • Clee

    The video link doesn’t work for me. Is it now
    http://www.hybridcars.com/video-animation/worlds-first-hybrid-taxi-video.html

    Jesse,
    I saw a web page with a picture of your odometer at 316,884 miles. Nice.
    http://techno-fandom.org/~hobbit/cars/nehg-0826/

  • kendra egert

    to me the honda battery l;asts only 3 months

  • HebrewRepublican1957

    Bristol Bob,

    What’s the reference to HW Bush selling Hitler’s debt offerings?
    Read all about the Saudis, looking forward to this one.

    Mike L

  • Jesse Rudavsky

    January 30th 2008, prius totalled at 349,531 miles courtesy of 17yr old punk going through red light.

  • Gary

    2007 Prius bought in 11/2006 in Miami, FL the entire time, only 14,800 miles – battery died and had to get new battery, but under the warranty

  • Jimbo1

    My Sister just gave my 16 yo Daughter her old 2003 Civic Hybrid w/ 85k. Two months later it is in need of a new battery and module at a staggering $4600. Honda split the cost with me, thank you.

  • Anonymous

    In 2005 I purchased a Toyota Prius and the new Hybrid Highlander 4 wheel dr. I had just sold a chevy truck 2500 HD 8.1 . Every time I took a long trip on the highway the truck burned up a clutch, five total. Plus the constant cost of little things.
    My Prius has 130,000 the Highlander 123,000 all normal maint timing belt and waterpump(which you should do at the same time as the belt) on hy hi , coolant in engines and Inverters, filters throughout, all that my son and I do ourselves. The only thing that has broke is the passanger side bright light on my Highlander. I replaced it at 95,000 mi.
    I drove G M for 35 years and when I consider the money I have waisted its a joke. These hybrids are bulletproof, and Toyota knew they had to be. I am not a Mechanic, I have worked on cars all my adult life and there is a very noticable difference In the quality of these automobiles from anything made in America, Im sorry there is no debate.

  • Queen`

    Thats a long time.