You probably know that we’ve been selling our Prius hybrid here in the U.S. since 2001. So let’s do the mileage math: At an average of 15,000 miles per year for seven years, that suggests that these 2001 Priuses could have a bit more than 100,000 miles on them. Some of them probably have many fewer miles. But some of them undoubtedly have seen many more miles scroll past their odometers.
Which of course raises a question in which owners of these cars are deeply interested: What happens when the battery packs that are fundamental elements of the Prius package no longer can store electrical power?
Make no mistake, batteries do, in non-technical terms, wear out. What happens is that they no longer can maintain the electrical charge that is essential to their ability to supply electrical power. But having changed countless batteries in flashlights and other devices, you already know that, right?
It is a fact that some of our first-generation Priuses are still going strong with more than 200,000 miles on their original batteries. A couple of cars doing taxi service in Victoria, B.C., reportedly have seen 300,000 miles and in one case, 400,000 miles on the original batteries with what’s described as "very few maintenance issues."
This is not to suggest, mind you, that anyone else will see these kinds of miles on their Prius batteries. It is only to suggest that fears of premature battery failure probably are unwarranted.
That said, there will come a time when replacement of the car’s batteries will be required. So you should know that first of all, Prius batteries are warranted for 10 years or 150,000 miles in California-compliance states and eight years or 100,000 miles in non-California compliant states.*
And you also should know that the battery packs are available from any Toyota dealer. The MSRP for a battery pack for a first-generation Prius is $2,299, while the MSRP for the battery pack for the second-generation cars, those from the 2004-2008 model-years, is $2,588. This reflects three price reductions for the first-generation battery since it was introduced and two price reductions for the second-generation battery. Naturally, labor charges, which are set by each dealer, as well as possible charges from ancillary parts that could be required, should be added to that figure. Finally, we assume responsibility for recycling all of our hybrid batteries.
So on one hand, battery replacement in a Prius is neither as simple nor as inexpensive as replacing the battery in a conventional car. But on the other, once the job is done, a replacement battery pack should be capable of delivering many more miles of the clean, efficient transportation owners have come to expect from their Priuses.
Originally published on the Toyota Open Road blog on Dec. 29, 2008.
*Editor's Note: For 2001-2003 Prius models, hybrid batteries are warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles in California-compliance states.