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.