What makes a hybrid car different from any other is the battery. A hybrid battery is meant to give a higher fuel economy. And this is what attracts modern-day buyers. Apart from the fuel economy, it is also proven to be better for the environment. This is seen due to the lower rate of tailpipe emissions from hybrid cars. Still, a huge concern among the people is with the batteries. How long do hybrid batteries last?
It is a common misconception that hybrid batteries seize to function prematurely. The truth cannot be further. Hybrid batteries are made to last. As a matter of fact, in the US domestic market, it is legally required to warrant high-voltage hybrid battery packs for at least eight years or 100,000 miles of use. So you can expect to get at least 100,000 miles out of your hybrid battery.
Like everything else in this world, hybrid batteries fail occasionally. Nothing in this world is perfect. So why do hybrid batteries fail? There can be many reasons, but the most common are mistakes made by the user. There are a few ways you can do to properly maintain your hybrid battery, thus increasing its life span. But for that, you need to know how a hybrid battery works.
- How do hybrid batteries work
- Why do hybrid batteries fail
- Symptoms of failure
- How long do they last
- Increase life span
The Mechanics Behind Hybrid Batteries
A hybrid car couples the standard fuel-burning engine and the electrical power of a hybrid battery. Hybrid cars offer obvious advantages such as sharp electronic gauges and outstanding fuel economy, many consumers do not understand how these engines work, and the significance behind them.
Full electric or battery-only cars are known to have better acceleration, coming off a stop. But their battery has a capacity. On average a fully electric car can run up to 70 to 200 miles on one full charge. With standard gas-powered cars, the fuel economy is very low. The hybrid combines the best of both. It offers a significant increase in fuel economy. That is up to 35% to 50% higher than standard cars. And you do not have to charge it every 100 miles.
Structure Of A Hybrid Battery
A hybrid battery is different than a conventional car battery in respect to its composition and application. A typical car battery has six cells submerged in battery acid. On the other hand, a hybrid battery consists of numerous cells. These are created as dry cells and submerged in dielectric gel or silicone.
Hybrid batteries are much larger than typical car batteries. They are up to 3 times heavier. And they can produce over 300 volts with high amperage. With that much power, it is considered an electrical hazard and must be treated carefully.
A controller or computer is used to manage voltage and amperage, input and output of the battery. This computer is connected to the primary computer of the car, thus they can work in sync. The battery is placed well ventilated in your car. The amount of power it can generate means it will also generate a lot of heat. Air vents keep the battery cool and ventilated.
The Process Of Recharging Hybrid Batteries
A few years back, when hybrid cars were introduced consumers were confused about how the battery charges itself. When stated it charges itself many were confused on how that happens. It was common misconception decades ago that a hybrid battery recharges similar to a bicycle dynamo. Where the rotational motion of the wheels is converted to electrical energy. But that is false, a hybrid battery recharges by a method known as regenerative braking.
So, what is regenerative breaking? Regular hybrids charge their onboard nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion battery packs by reclaiming energy through a process called regenerative braking. During coasting, or breaking the electrical motor that drives the wheels operates in reverse. This acts as a generator, thus producing electricity.
Kinetic energy would traditionally turn to heat energy while braking. Here, the kinetic energy is not allowed to turn into heat as it is converted into electrical energy instead.
Fast forward 10 years from the first hybrid, the invention of the plug-in hybrid. Just like a regular hybrid, the battery of the plug-in hybrid is meant to save electricity. Unlike the traditional hybrid battery, this battery is more powerful and can be charged externally.
A typical hybrid can go up to 40 mph using battery power alone. A plug-in hybrid, due to its higher power, can go up to 55 mph on battery power.
This does charge using regenerative braking. For additional power, it also is charged using a plug, just like an electric vehicle.
Plug-in hybrids provide most of the benefits of an electric car while maintaining the efficiency and driving range of a regular hybrid, which eliminates the “range anxiety” of pure electric vehicles. When the external charge depletes, the battery works like a typical hybrid battery.
How Long Do Hybrid Batteries Last – Why Do Hybrid Batteries Fail
There can be many reasons why your hybrid battery could fail. Some of these problems occur without your interference. This means there is not a lot that you can do to avoid it. But some of these problems are due to user’s carelessness. And these problems can be corrected. Here are some of the common reasons why hybrid batteries fail.
Age And Mileage
Age matters when you think about the life span of your battery. You may need to replace your hybrid battery in as little as five years from the time you purchase the battery new. But ultimately, it depends on how you use the car.
If you use your car for long trips frequently or your job is to drive your car all the time your battery will fail. However, if you use your car rarely and do not go on long road trips frequently, you will be able to see your battery lasts as long as 10 or 11 years.
That being said, when it comes to mileage your car has a number as well. An average battery is known to last up to 100,000 miles. So if your battery gives out after 100,000 miles there is no surprise there.
Some car models like the 2005 Toyota Prius are known to last slightly longer. These can be expected to run up to 150,000 miles without needing a battery replacement.
When it comes to battery balance, you have no control over it. It is not much you can do to stop this from draining the life out of your battery.
What is battery balance? Battery balance is where individual cells are not balanced with other cells.
For example, a Toyota Prius has 28 individual cells with around 6500 mAh. This capacity will break down as low as 1500mAh over time. Often these breakdowns do not occur in sync. One might break down drastically while the rest have a decent capacity.
You might find one cell with 1500 mAh while the rest are at 5000 mAh. If unbalanced like this are present in your battery, it could fail relatively quickly.
As mentioned earlier the electric battery and the fuel-burning engine work in tandem to form a hybrid. When one of these is faulty the other might be in trouble as well.
If your engine is not doing its job properly, the hybrid is going to need to take much of the load. This puts a lot of stress on the battery. As a result, your hybrid battery will wear out sooner if you do not service your engine regularly.
This is applicable for plug-in hybrids, in which manual recharging is an option. So how can you recharge responsibly? The answer lies in the time you leave it plugged in.
If you charge it too much or leave the plug on for longer than necessary, this will reduce the battery life. The same is true with charging too little at a time. If you are charging your battery frequently and not allowing it to reach its maximum capacity, that will also reduce your battery life.
The manufacturer will provide guidance on how long it will take to charge the battery. That is the ideal time that you need to keep your battery plugged into the charger, not too much nor too little.
After a few years of usage, the maximum capacity of the battery will decrease. This is similar to your cell phone battery. Charging for longer periods of time will not bring it back to its initial capacity. In this case, take the loss before further damage is created.
Extreme cold and extreme heat will negatively affect your battery life.
During cold climates, the car takes a while to heat up. And the engine should heat up to optimal temperatures to run smoothly. Until your engine gets to a high enough temperature, your battery will take an excess load which can wear it down.
Another problem with climate comes in the form of snow. Snow and ice, in general, are hard on hybrids as a whole. Snow requires a heavier vehicle with more rolling resistance than what a typical hybrid tire has. As a result, your hybrid battery will have to work harder than usual.
Excess heat could damage the battery just as much as low temperatures. A hybrid battery will deteriorate in temperatures above 110 degrees. To avoid your battery heating up it needs to be well ventilated. Some hybrid cars have batteries located under their passenger seat, if this were the case, the intake serves enough ventilation. It is imperative that you keep your air filter clear all the time.
These are the common problems that drastically reduce your battery’s life span. Even though some factors are out of your hand, if you can work with what you can control, you might be able to ensure that your battery remains functional for a long time.
How Long Do Hybrid Batteries Last – Signs That Your Hybrid Battery Is Failing
There are symptoms that a hybrid battery will show before completely fails. Identifying them early might give you a chance to get your battery repaired or replaced in time. Here are a few symptoms that a hybrid battery will exhibit before failing.
Decrease In Fuel Economy
This is the most common symptom that your hybrid battery is going to emit before failing. The battery is an alternate source of power for the car. When your hybrid battery is failing, it won’t be able to handle the load it used to. At this moment your engine steps up to generate all the necessary power to propel your car.
The engine is going to use fuel to generate power. When the battery is no longer able to assist the engine will burn more fuel in order to produce more power. This will reduce your fuel economy gradually.
Fluctuations In Charge Indicator
Does your display show an erratic charge? If your indicator shows a full charge at certain moments and shows an empty indicator after a while that is another sign of hybrid batteries failing. In worse cases, drastic drops in the charge indicator are easily identifiable. This often means that your battery is unable to hold a charge and is faulty.
Engine Working Regularly
As mentioned earlier a hybrid battery can pull the entire load, when you are driving at around 40 mph. Usually, when cruising at these speeds your engine never burns fuel. If your battery is faulty you might see or feel the engine working at cruising speeds. If so your battery is not charging, not keeping a charge. Either way, your battery is failing.
This is another indicator that your battery is in trouble. Often these sounds occur due to the cooling fan malfunctioning. If you can spot this early you can still save your battery. If your air filter is clogged or the cooling fan is not doing its job you will hear strange noises.
When your battery runs hot for too long it will break down. Spotting this early means, you can save your battery from irreparable damage.
Knowing how to spot a failing battery can save you a lot of difficulties. Especially if the problem is in the cooling fans.
How Long Do Hybrid Batteries Last – Average Life Span Of Hybrid Batteries
This is the biggest fear for hybrid car consumers today is the battery. Will it give out on me? Should I be thinking about a replacement in the back of my mind all the time?
The good news is that you do not need to be concerned about it. The average life span of a hybrid battery is 100,000 miles. This is the average amount. Hybrid batteries often last for over 150,000 miles. They are even known to last over 200,000 miles. Especially the hybrids manufactured by Toyota. So with proper maintenance, you are looking at a battery that would last over 120,000 miles.
It is rare that hybrid batteries die before running at least 80,000 miles. Even without proper maintenance. So if your car is under 80,000 miles you do not need to worry about your hybrid battery.
If you are someone who hangs onto your car for a long time you might need a hybrid battery replacement down the road. It is almost unheard of to need more than one battery replacement. If you replace a battery at around 100,000 miles your new battery will perform well for the next 100,000 miles. When your car reaches upwards of 200,000 miles much bigger problems often start to pop up.
Most car manufacturers will cover the battery replacement if it gives out before 100,000 miles. So there is nothing to be afraid of.
How Long Do Hybrid Batteries Last – Replacement Cost
This is where it stings. A hybrid battery replacement is going to cost a lot. The exact cost varies from the model of the car and the manufacturer. But even the lowest battery replacement costs over $2000. And this is the lowest amount.
On average hybrid battery replacement costs between $3000 to $8000. This is a significant amount considering the cost of a new car. But as time passes a lot of salvaged hybrid batteries are coming into the market.
These slightly used hybrid batteries come from salvaged car wrecks. If the battery is not suffering from any damage these will be available for purchase. If you can find a battery such as this, you might be able to get it for $2000 to $2500.
However, if a new hybrid battery must be purchased, and installation proves to be rather time consumptive, giving way to growing labor costs, one can expect to pay a higher fee.
On some occasions replacing a battery is not worth it. For example, if you own a Prius from the 2010s, chances are that your hybrid battery survived for around 150,000 miles. In this case, if you are spending $4000 or $5000 it is not worth it. Sometimes it is just best to take a loss and buy a new car.
Is It Worth Repairing A Hybrid Battery
With the rising popularity of hybrid vehicles, there are a lot of shops specializing in hybrid batteries. And some of them even specialize in hybrid battery repairs. Is it worth getting your battery repaired?
Yes and No. Repairing a hybrid battery is significantly cheaper than replacing one. That being said it does not always work. If your battery worked for over 100,000 miles, that is often its limit. Repairing it is just a short-term fix. Even if you do get it repaired it is not going to last long. Problems with the hybrid battery will occur frequently even if you do continue to repair it every time it breaks down.
When is it worth repairing? The battery is worth repairing if it fails before reaching anywhere close to 100,000 miles. In this case, there is probably some slight problem that is affecting your battery. A small repair could fix this. Opting for a replacement when your hybrid battery fails prematurely is not a good idea.
How To Increase The Hybrid Batteries’ Life Span
As mentioned earlier there are a few problems that affect the battery’s life span negatively. The best way to increase the life span of a hybrid battery is to combat those problems.
If you own a plug-in hybrid, make it a habit to charge it until it’s full regularly. The manufacturer always has a recommended charging period. Try not to leave your car plugged in exceeding that time period.
Never plug your hybrid up for a quick 5-minute charge, before soldiering on with a near-dead battery. If you have an empty battery and do not have time to charge it fully, do not charge it.
There is not much you can do against the weather. Similar to an ordinary battery a hybrid battery is also affected by freezing temperatures. If you live in a chilly area you can not expect to get the maximum out of your battery.
On the other hand, with hot temperatures, you can manage them. There are cooling fans near your battery to keep it cool. Regularly make sure that they’re working in order. Also, check the air filter. A clogged air filter can mess with the airflow. This will not allow your battery to get ventilated.
Most manufacturers specify that a hybrid battery is to be tested at predetermined service intervals. Skipping these regular services can affect how long your hybrid battery lasts.
This routine maintenance allows you to find out if individual cells are unbalanced. If these cells are identified before drastic unbalanced, reconditioning efforts can be made to prolong unit life.
How Long Do Hybrid Batteries Last – Verdict
How long do hybrid batteries last? The answer is enough. Most manufacturers offer a warranty of 100,000 miles or 8 years. Newer models of Toyota and Lexus have increased this warranty period to 150,000 miles. When you do your part you can expect them to last more than their warranty period.
If you do need to replace your battery put some thought into it. If you cannot find a battery for a lower price, that is worth replacing, a new car might be a better option. Either way, a hybrid car will pay you back for the battery from the fuel it saves. Another thing to keep in mind is that, as a bonus by using a hybrid, you are protecting the environment.