Hybrid

Hybrid Car Batteries Raise Concerns

Is your hybrid aging gracefully?

Since hybrid first exploded onto the scene at the turn of the century, fears of spending tens of thousands of dollars to replace the advanced batteries used to power the hybrid system have haunted buyers, potential buyers, and PR executives at auto makers. As the first cars on the market start to hit the 100,000 mile/ten year mark and beyond, the demand for replacement batteries has skyrocketed and the price has shocked many hybrid owners.

Newsweek reports that sales of replacement batteries for hybrid cars were up 58% last month, despite the significant costs associated with battery replacement. However, both Toyota and Honda, the two largest manufacturers of hybrid cars say that only a small numbers of dead batteries have been reported once the cars’ 100,000 or 150,000 mile warranties have expired. When I say small, I mean 1% for older models and fractions of a percent for the more updated technology found in newer hybrids (basically, after 2004).

But for those who are out of the warranty and facing the reality of having to replace the battery, what is the cost? Just a few weeks ago, the cost was much higher than it is now. As demand rose, hybrid manufacturers realized that if the prices didn’t come down, things could get ugly. So Honda and Toyota slashed battery prices to $1,968-$3,000 – a substantial savings over what they were prior to June 1, 2008 ($3,400-$5,500). Hybrid owners who still have a while on their warranties can also breathe easy; new plants to mass-produce replacement batteries are in the works, which should bring the prices down even more.

Anytime you buy a used car, you run the risk of not finding a potential problem that could end up costing you a lot down the road. And anytime a new technology is introduced, the early adopters are willing to risk paying a higher price and being the guinea pigs for the new product. In the case of hybrid cars, these two scenarios are simultaneous, which is unfortunate for those first buyers, but without them and their willingness to take risks, the hybrid industry would not be where it is today.

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