While hybrid cars entered the mainstream car market nearly 20 years ago, they’ve grown in popularity and spread across nearly every platform of vehicle today. As the 10- and 15-year marks of ownership are reached, hybrid battery life and maintenance questions have begun to pop up. How long do batteries last? What are the performance issues that arise? How does one go about replacing their beloved hybrid’s battery?
The battery technology in your hybrid vehicle is similar to that of your smartphone and other modern devices; in fact, for the most part, they both use Lithium-Ion batteries — the ones in your car just have a far higher capacity. The battery in your devices typically gets charged to 100 percent and then discharged to nearly 0 percent, which can substantially shorten the lifespan of the battery.
In a hybrid car, software programs generally allow the battery to be charged to around 80 percent and only down to about 40 percent, which helps them last a lot longer. With that said, chemistry is still chemistry and the materials responsible for creating electricity within the pack can deplete and wear out over time, leaving the battery in a partially operational state.
The Telltale Signs
As a hybrid crosses the 100K-mile mark and the vehicle takes on a new life in its older years, the battery systems that power the drivetrain will start to wear out and fail. While there’s no onboard “test” for the lifespan or health of the battery, the best indicator of a properly functioning pack is the vehicle’s fuel economy. If the battery is working correctly, fuel consumption shouldn’t change all that much. But as the battery begins to fail, the gas engine will start to pick up more of the slack and you’ll see a decline in miles per gallon.
If your hybrid is getting lower gas mileage than it used to, the battery may be the culprit. Most manufacturers warranty the batteries for about eight years or 100,000 miles, so if it fails prematurely, your vehicle may be covered.
While different hybrids use different size batteries, the cost of replacement is generally between $2,000 and $4,000. Depending on the vehicle the physical battery replacement can be simple. The batteries are typically located in the trunk of the car or under the back seat. Putting it simply the job involves removing the clamps that hold it in place, unplugging the old battery and then installing the new one. Of course there are a few vehicle specific safety steps involved due to the high voltages used by these batteries. Finally a technician may need to use special tools to make sure the hybrid system is functioning properly.
Hybrid cars incorporate amazing technology to achieve better fuel mileage, but over time, the batteries can begin to deteriorate. As your vehicle gets older, fuel mileage may decline — a good indicator of a battery that’s gone bad. Of course you can always take your hybrid to a local NAPA AutoCare Center for an expert diagnosis.
Check out all of the batteries available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on hybrid battery life, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.