The Toyota Prius debuted in 2001 and since has been the hottest seller in the hybrid car market. Despite the recent downturn in hybrid sales, and a sharp drop in Prius sales, the vehicle remains very significant.
One issue constantly raised by hybrid doubters is the question of when will the batteries die on a hybrid and how to replace them when they do die. Such a question has for a while has been purely speculative -- hybrids were young on the market. However, for the Prius -- whose 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 -- an end of battery life may be coming in the next few years, and there may even be some premature failures in the next year or two.
While this is obviously an issue of serious concern to first generation Prius owners, early indications from Toyota are that the problem might not be a severe as some would imagine. First of all, replacement batteries for the first generation (2001-2003) are available for an MSRP of $2,299 USD and the second generation batteries are available (2004-2008) for an MSRP of $2,588 USD (the latter being more expensive due to less time to reduce the cost).
Additionally, preliminary tests are showing the Prius batteries to be even more robust than expected. In Victoria, British Columbia, where many of the taxi cabs are Prius hybrids, one service reports getting 300,000 miles, or twice the range guaranteed by the factory warranty. It says it even got 400,000 miles on one Prius without a noticeable decrease in battery performance.
While this case should not be taken as standard, the good news is the Prius batteries appear pretty hearty. First generation Prius owners can at least hope, though it’s no sure thing, that rather than a replacement in 3 years, it might be more like 5 or 6.
Replacing the Prius batteries is more intensive process than replacing a standard car battery. Toyota can replace Prius batteries at any dealership. It offers free recycling for its batteries, as a courtesy.