Are you considering purchasing a hybrid vehicle? Well, you aren’t the only one. With nearly 5.4 million hybrids on the road, they are becoming increasingly popular. These revolutionary vehicles are equipped with an electric motor and a gasoline engine.
Depending on the driver’s preference, sometimes it's the electric motor that keeps the car moving, and other times it is the gasoline engine. But just like with any other motor vehicle, hybrids are designed with a battery. For millions of consumers, the longevity of these expensive hybrid batteries can very well influence purchasing decisions. Hybrid batteries can be somewhat complex. We're going to break it all down here.
First Off, What Is A Hybrid?
Hybrid vehicles are a great option for drivers who aren’t ready to commit to a full on electric vehicle. These cars utilize two distinct types of power; an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that feeds off the energy stored in the batteries. Unlike an electric car, hybrids can’t be plugged in to recharge the battery. Instead, the battery is constantly juiced up through regenerative braking. The gas engine also aids in charging and maintaining the battery.
Hybrid vehicles were produced in 1999 and became widely available to consumers the following year. Over the years automakers have designed different types of hybrids aimed at increasing fuel savings and reducing vehicle costs.
Consumer Perceptions Regarding Hybrid Batteries
Although hybrid sales have significantly increased in the last year, the main point of consumer resistance is the perception that costly hybrid battery packs are problematic and are often prone to premature failure. The truth is that the longevity of hybrid batteries is dependent on several factors. The good news is that in the U.S domestic market, manufacturers are required by law to provide a warranty on all hybrid battery packs.
Hybrid technology is a relatively new phenomenon in the automotive world, therefore customers are apprehensive because they don’t know what to expect. There are all types of hybrid vehicles all of which are equipped with different batteries with varying capacities and quality. How long do hybrid batteries last and how do you maintain them?
Understanding The Construction of High-Voltage Hybrid Batteries
One of the biggest differences between hybrids and traditional cars is that they aren’t designed with a conventional 12-volt battery. All hybrids are manufactured with a battery pack that’s made up of individual battery cells to form a larger and much more powerful battery. While all hybrid batteries follow this pattern when it comes to the design construction and the chemistry used to form each battery cell, these properties are different across automotive brands. Hybrids all have different size battery packs and different ways of charging them.
Three Main Types of Hybrid Batteries
While hybrid vehicles were introduced to the automotive market a little over twenty years ago, hybrid battery technology is constantly evolving. There are three main types of batteries used in hybrid vehicles; Lead Acid, Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), and Lithium-Ion.
Nickel Metal Hydride – Nickel Metal Hydride batteries were commonly used in earlier hybrid models. This type of battery relies on hydrogen to store energy as well as metals like; nickel, titanium which secures the hydrogen ions. Since NiMH batteries have been around for a long time they are more affordable than other types of hybrid batteries. They provide about a 5-kilowatt hour.
Lithium-Ion – Most consumers are very familiar with lithium-ion batteries because they are commonly used in all of our favorite electronic devices. This type of hybrid battery is made from highly reactive lithium and carbon. Lithium-ion batteries weigh less than any other type of hybrid battery and they are energy efficient which is why more and more automakers are adopting this type of battery in their hybrid vehicle lineup.
Lead Acid – Lead acid is the most affordable type of hybrid battery however they store less energy. Hybrid vehicles that utilize a lead acid battery can only drive up to ten miles when it’s in electric mode and up to twenty miles when it's switched to the hybrid model.
How Long Can You Expect A Hybrid Battery Last?
This is the question of the hour. The longevity of a hybrid battery will most likely determine whether you decide to invest your hard-earned money into purchasing one. After all, hybrid batteries like all batteries have a shelf life so they will eventually lose power.
The majority of hybrid car manufacturers say that most battery packs can last between 80,000-100,000 miles. However, with regular maintenance, several automotive experts have reported that hybrid batteries can last well beyond 100,000 miles and sometimes up to 200,000 miles.
The average lifespan of a lithium-ion battery is 15 years which works out to be about 150,000 miles which is a longer lifespan than other types of hybrid battery packs. However, larger lithium-ion batteries are prone to overheating. In addition, its use in hybrid vehicles is relatively new so they don’t have a proven track record. As a result, some consumers are hesitant to purchase hybrid cars that use Lithium-ion batteries.
Lead acid battery packs, which are one of the oldest types of auto batteries, are known for their durability, safety, and proven performance. These battery packs have undergone some major upgrades to increase their efficiency in hybrid vehicles.
What about nickel-metal hydride battery packs? According to Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey, nickel-metal hydride batteries have a very good reliability rating. It’s important to note that since the chemical composition of hybrid batteries varies across brands so does the quality, and durability of hybrid batteries. For instance, battery packs in older Honda and Ford hybrids are more problematic than Toyota hybrid vehicles.
Hybrid Battery Warranties Provide Buyer Confidence
Unfortunately, no product is perfect so at some point you should expect that a hybrid battery pack will fail. Replacing a hybrid battery isn’t as simple as buying a $100 12 volt battery from your local auto parts store. A new hybrid battery pack can cost thousands of dollars. But did you know that all manufacturers of hybrid vehicles are required by law to provide a warranty on hybrid battery packs for at least eight years or 100,000 miles? On Japanese designed hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, warranties spanning over ten years or 150,000 miles have become the norm.
If you purchase a hybrid vehicle used, dealers are legally obliged to transfer and honor the current warranty on the car. So if you buy a two-year-old hybrid vehicle with about 25,000 miles on it the original warranty will be transferred from the previous owner to you. In addition, the dealer is mandated to honor the warranty balance should the battery need to be replaced before the warranty expires. Hybrid batteries typically never outlast the life of the car so having a solid warranty in place offers consumers lots of protection should they decide to purchase a hybrid vehicle new or used.
Why Do Hybrid Batteries Fail?
Hybrid batteries are at risk of failing when they are ten to fifteen years old or near this age. In some instances, the battery pack can fail earlier. Often, every driver's experience is different. Two main factors determine the performance of a hybrid battery pack:
State Of Charge
The state of charge of a hybrid battery pack measures how much electrical energy is stored in the battery cells relative to its nominal voltage. Knowing the state of charge is important because it informs hybrid vehicle owners on how much energy they can expect to get out of the battery when it's not full and before it needs to be recharged. For instance, a Toyota Prius that is about seventy percent discharged may only provide approximately forty percent power depending on power demand and operating conditions.
State Of Health
The condition of a hybrid battery pack is referred to as its state of health. When a hybrid vehicle is purchased brand new the state of health of its battery is 100% since when all batteries start their life it’s at full capacity. Over time hybrid battery packs begin to deteriorate. As the state of health decreases the performance of the battery also decreases. A 70 kWh battery with an 85% SOH can perform like a 64 kWh battery.
Hybrid battery packs can only perform well if the charging and discharging loads are spread equally amongst all the modules and cells. Because these battery packs have dozens of different cells the failure or malfunction of just one cell can impact the performance of the whole battery pack.
Hybrid battery cells can fail for a variety of reasons such as;
- Defective battery cells
- Abnormally high or low battery temperatures
- Compositional differences between cells
- Mechanical damage during servicing
How To Increase The Life Of Hybrid Batteries
When hybrid batteries fail there aren’t any other options besides replacing it with a new or refurbished battery. Whether a hybrid vehicle uses a nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion battery it’s crucial to the powertrain of the vehicle so it can’t just be run on the gasoline engine alone.
Maintenance on popular hybrid vehicles doesn’t require any special procedures beyond what your average car needs. However, one of the best things you can do is to never ignore the warning lights on your hybrid car. The battery monitoring system uses trouble codes that trigger warning lights when it detects an issue with the hybrid's high-voltage battery pack. This monitoring system detects important issues like:
- Imbalances between battery modules or cells can degrade the whole battery pack and thereby increase the car’s fuel consumption
- Significantly low or high rates of charge can be a result of defective or failing cells within the battery pack
- Abnormal battery temperatures are typically caused by failures or other underlying problems within the computer-controlled battery cooling system. The temperature of the battery will affect the performance of the vehicle.
Semi-annual battery inspections are highly recommended to help extend the life of hybrid battery packs. These inspections can help spot minor issues before they turn into major problems. Also, if the battery needs servicing, having OEM-approved procedures performed can often increase its longevity by several years.
Common Questions Regarding Hybrid Batteries
Q: How will I know when my hybrid vehicle needs a new battery?
Hybrid vehicles are equipped with indicator lights that illuminate when the battery needs servicing or needs to be replaced. When you have a bad battery pack you’ll notice a decrease in your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy.
Q: What happens if the battery fails out of warranty?
If your hybrid battery fails outside of warranty then you’ll, unfortunately, have to pay out of pocket to replace it. A hybrid battery replacement can cost about $5,000-$6,000 at a dealership. Independent service centers that specialize in working on hybrid vehicles will charge less. Fortunately, you don’t always have to purchase a hybrid battery brand new which increases the replacement cost. A refurbished battery pack can be purchased for around $1,000-$1,500.
Q: Why do hybrid batteries last long?
Most of the time when hybrid batteries are fully charged they are only charged up to about eighty percent capacity. Therefore, when the battery is depleted it's actually only 20% empty. The under-taxing of the battery means that it’s never overcharged which prolongs its life.
Q: Is replacing a hybrid battery pack DIY friendly?
Installing a new hybrid battery pack isn’t like replacing a conventional battery in a regular car. Hybrid batteries should only be serviced by trained and experienced technicians. In fact, it can be downright dangerous for someone without the proper training to work on a hybrid battery. This job is best left to the professionals.
Q: What does it mean to recondition a hybrid battery?
Reconditioning a hybrid battery restores it to a healthy condition. When a hybrid battery pack is reconditioned, damaged or bad battery cells are isolated and replaced. This reverts a failing battery to a functional condition. Reconditioning is only recommended if the battery is less than seven years old.
Do you have a hybrid with a bad battery? If you've decided not to spend thousands of dollars on a new or refurbished battery Cash Car Buyers will take the vehicle off of your hands. We can make you a cash offer today.