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Isaac Zachary 08-15-2022 11:31 PM

The hybrid ticking time bomb
 
After derailing the Maverick thread (Sorry!) I thought I'd instead make a thread on the subject.

There are two kinds of Hybrid owners:
  1. Those that have never had a hybrid battery go out.
  2. Those that have

The first group just doesn't own their hybrid long enough for it to go out. They trade in their car either because of some other malfunction or accident, or just to have a nicer, newer car.

But this is Ecomodder, the place where people go to save money. Not that buying newer is never the smartest thing to do, but generally the longer you own your vehicle without needing major repairs the cheaper it becomes. So that brings us to the second group.

Mind you, yes, a lot of other cars that are around 15-years-old or older with, say, over 200,000 miles on them are also in need of major repairs. But in a non-hybrid, a little TLC can sometimes go a long way. Frequent oil changes and other fluid changes, easy driving, engine block heaters, keeping on top of leak prevention, etc. all help a traditional car last longer. There are some out there that have way beyond 200,000 miles on the original engine, transmission and most everything else.

Yes, there are those that succumb to rust, sometimes dangerouslyrotting important structural components, long before other parts need major repairs or replacement. But not everyone lives in a rust belt either. And rust can sometimes be delt with too before it becomes too much of a problem.

So why am I talking about all this. Well, if you can buy a car for under $1,000 and drive it for several years, you've got a true econo car.

TANGENT
I've done this twice. First it was a 1993 Mazda 323 5 speed I bought back in 2006 or 2007 for $250. It needed a battery, a radiator and the head was warped. I took the head and had it milled and threw it on with a new gasket set, replaced the radiator and suprisingly there was a receipt for the battery and it was still under warranty, so I got a free battery. The next year or so I replaced every strut cartridge and brake pad and all 4 tires. I also ended up getting a set of rims for $200 and put snow tires on them. I drove that car all over the place, even clear down to Puerto Vallarta Mexico once. It only gave out on me once and turned out to be a bad conection to the fuel pump. Then in 2011 I ended up giving it to a realative and kind of kicked myself in the butt for doing that.

I then had a similar experience with a 1985 VW Golf diesel that needed a motor mount and transmission seals that I replaced myself.


These are the kind of vehicles poor or frugal people buy. That kid, looking for his first car to go to highschool or college in or save up for his first house or his marriage, for an example. Or an ecomodder looking to save every last penny. And yes, a person could go get a better paying job, maybe in another town, maybe give up some other expensive hobby... just to own a newer car... But what's the point of that?

Personally I avoid cars between the 50,000 mile and 200,000 marks. These are the cars that can cost some $5,000 or so and may be decent cars. But sometimes they end up needing a couple grand or more of work too. At that price a person might as well as have gotten a semi-used, single owner car for some $8,000 or more. And on the other end least with a $500 car you can either walk away and have only lost less than what most people lose per month in a car payment, or spend the couple grand and have a new engine or transmission that may even come with a small warranty.

Well, a couple years ago I thought, "Why not get another project car?" and found a 2006 Prius for $300. One problem was the hybrid battery was dead. The car would drive a while, then make a red triangle of death, and after pulling over wouldn't go anywhere. So I ended up replacing 3 modules, the beginning of "whack-a-mole battery care." I've looked into battery replacements, and it looks like most aftermarket batteries are not reliable at all, as finding someone with more than a year or two without a failure is very rare on any battery below about $2,000 for just the battery.

Now I see why so many on Prius forums have said an old hybrid is not a good first car. The question came up, why aren't all cars hybrids? If they were, wouldn't that mean all would have an expensive battery failure at some point? Hybrids are awesome, so is there anything that can be done about that? Or do you just have to budget $3,000 or more for a potential battery replacement when getting an old hybrid? Or is avoiding old hybrids just the way to go to save money?

redpoint5 08-16-2022 01:40 AM

Couple thoughts on this.

1. Hybrid technology is relatively new. Battery tech is the achilles heel. The Nissan Leaf was among the first of modern EVs, and it has a very terrible battery architecture. I expect no future EVs to degrade as severely as it. There is a price to be paid by adopting early iterations of any idea.

2. The dumbest vehicles to make into a hybrid were selected first. The ROI on the hybrid tech on a compact, ultra-efficient vehicle design is so many years into the future. Had the larger vehicles been the first to receive hybrid tech, the thousands of dollars in fuel savings over the course of ownership would make replacing a battery a no-brainer.

Just look at the Honda Insights as evidence. Plenty of people saying they didn't replace the traction battery when it went bad because it cost too much, and doesn't really improve the MPGs. Might accelerate a bit slower than before, but who cares.

Finally, there's differentiation between models. Would you rather own an out of warranty VW, or an out of warranty Toyota Corolla? Just as there's differences in maintenance costs with ICE vehicles, there will be differences in costs / longevity in hybrids.

Isaac Zachary 08-16-2022 09:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by redpoint5 (Post 673034)
Couple thoughts on this.

1. Hybrid technology is relatively new. Battery tech is the achilles heel. The Nissan Leaf was among the first of modern EVs, and it has a very terrible battery architecture. I expect no future EVs to degrade as severely as it. There is a price to be paid by adopting early iterations of any idea.

Toyota still uses similar NiMH modules on a lot of their vehicles. Of course we won't know what the longevity of those will actually be going forward.

From the sound of it, Nissan has never gotten a better battery in terms of longevity. But that's just Nissan.

Quote:

Originally Posted by redpoint5 (Post 673034)
2. The dumbest vehicles to make into a hybrid were selected first. The ROI on the hybrid tech on a compact, ultra-efficient vehicle design is so many years into the future. Had the larger vehicles been the first to receive hybrid tech, the thousands of dollars in fuel savings over the course of ownership would make replacing a battery a no-brainer.

Just look at the Honda Insights as evidence. Plenty of people saying they didn't replace the traction battery when it went bad because it cost too much, and doesn't really improve the MPGs. Might accelerate a bit slower than before, but who cares.

Finally, there's differentiation between models. Would you rather own an out of warranty VW, or an out of warranty Toyota Corolla? Just as there's differences in maintenance costs with ICE vehicles, there will be differences in costs / longevity in hybrids.

Wouldn't battery size and price scale with vehicle size?

The MSRP for a battery for my Prius was about: $2,000 but are no longer available.
For my 2013 Avalon it's: $3,541
And for a new Sienna it's: $5,003

Is this just because they are newer or because of COVID prices, or do bigger vehicles have more expensive batteries?

I mean, sure, paying $3,000 or so for an economy car is a bit much. But $6,000 or so to install a battery for a minivan that gets 35mpg, would that be worth it?

Isaac Zachary 08-16-2022 10:31 AM

So here's another thing, parts.toyota.com no longer sells Gen 2 or Gen 3 Prius batteries, or at least they are marked as unavailable for whatever reason.

This is bad, as there are very few aftermarket batteries that seem worthwhile, and even then they are costly, maybe even more than an OEM, and may not meet the quality of an OEM battery still.

redpoint5 08-16-2022 10:55 AM

Those who purchase an old car either to save money, or because they can't afford anything more expensive don't buy OEM parts from the manufacturer and then have the dealership perform the work.

Old cars get junkyard parts and the owners do the work themselves. That's what makes it worthwhile to salvage an old car.

Isaac Zachary 08-16-2022 11:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by redpoint5 (Post 673057)
Those who purchase an old car either to save money, or because they can't afford anything more expensive don't buy OEM parts from the manufacturer and then have the dealership perform the work.

Old cars get junkyard parts and the owners do the work themselves. That's what makes it worthwhile to salvage an old car.

Yes BUT...

With a used transmission or engine for $500 to $1,000 or so, you can get one that has low miles and then get possibly even more out of it than your old engine or transmission by taking better care of it than your high mileage engine or transmission you got when you bought your 250,000 mile car.

But batteries are different. Looking on eBay, the cheapest ones are around $700 and are 15 years old, almost ready to die themselves. Something with several years left on it will cost around $2,000.

S Keith 08-16-2022 11:39 AM

List price on a Gen2 battery from any Toyota dealership is $1950 + $1500 core charge. They are still available, though Toyota's supply chain is very inconsistent right now.

Gen2 batteries in Phoenix last an average of 160K miles.
55K low and 386K mile high outliers (386K miles was a cab application).

Gen2 batteries in Texas last an average of 180K miles.

Gen2 batteries in extreme northern U.S. climates average > 200K miles.

STD is about 30K miles

Gen3 batteries (all Toyota 6 cell module based hybrid batteries that are NOT 04-09 Prius) last notably less mileage and commonly have widespread damage to the majority of the pack that cannot be reconditioned to an ethically usable level.

Isaac Zachary 08-16-2022 11:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by S Keith (Post 673059)
List price on a Gen2 battery from any Toyota dealership is $1950 + $1500 core charge. They are still available, though Toyota's supply chain is very inconsistent right now.

Gen2 batteries in Phoenix last an average of 160K miles.
55K low and 386K mile high outliers (386K miles was a cab application).

Gen2 batteries in Texas last an average of 180K miles.

Gen2 batteries in extreme northern U.S. climates average > 200K miles.

STD is about 30K miles

Gen3 batteries (all Toyota 6 cell module based hybrid batteries that are NOT 04-09 Prius) last notably less mileage and commonly have widespread damage to the majority of the pack that cannot be reconditioned to an ethically usable level.

Ya, the supply chain is the apparent culprit of the lack of OEM batteries. In Denver there's a dealer that cuts the Gen2 battery price down to about $1,750 (plus core of course) online the last time I looked.

I've also heard the Gen3's last less too. I thought it was because Toyota made the Gen3 work the battery harder than the Gen2.

S Keith 08-16-2022 11:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by redpoint5 (Post 673034)
Couple thoughts on this.
Just look at the Honda Insights as evidence. Plenty of people saying they didn't replace the traction battery when it went bad because it cost too much, and doesn't really improve the MPGs. Might accelerate a bit slower than before, but who cares.

The Hondas had this option because they have a backup starter on a far less integrated drivetrain. The failure of the traction battery had little to no effect on highway economy, but it completely destroys city mpg. Acceleration is NOTABLY reduced. The manual is a little better than the CVT, but it just sucks a little less.

I have owned 5 Honda hybrids. 02 & 05 Insight, 03 Civic, 2X 06 Civics. They are all garbage when their hybrid batteries fail. Some are willing to live with it, and they downplay the implications to justify their decision.

S Keith 08-16-2022 11:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Isaac Zachary (Post 673060)
Ya, the supply chain is the apparent culprit of the lack of OEM batteries. In Denver there's a dealer that cuts the Gen2 battery price down to about $1,750 (plus core of course) online the last time I looked.

I've also heard the Gen3's last less too. I thought it was because Toyota made the Gen3 work the battery harder than the Gen2.

Concerning availability, it's all about timing. About ever 4-6 weeks, there's a small flood. I had 4 come available all at once after having none for 6 weeks.

In the old days, they'd send several hundred over on a freighter, but it appears they're shipping much smaller batches to address supply rather than hold them for a big shipment.

It was common that a brand new battery had modules made 6-9 months prior. Now it's rare that they're more than 1-2 months old.

Gen3: That is my opinion as well. I have personally observed higher charge rates at higher states of charge and higher discharge rates at lower states of charge than I've ever seen in any Gen2. Plus those STUPID EV, ECO and POWER buttons added for consumer appeal... FFS. Each should be labeled "shorter battery life".

The only thing "good" about gen3, is they rarely drop a cell. Clear the codes, and you might get a week or more of un-coded driving. I've had folks do this for months before they finally replace the battery. $20 code reader and clear them as they come. If the car still drives okay, the only thing being harmed is the battery, and it's already a turd.

It's also due to a jacked-up cooling system. When they made the battery more compact and installed the cooling fan on the battery, the expansion duct is too short to allow for uniform airflow. It essentially shoves a column of air down the center of the battery and produces horribly uneven flow up through the modules.


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