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The world’s turned its back on gasoline-powered vehicles like it turned on cigarettes. They’re bad, we know they’re bad, and it’s time to start phasing them out. But like cigarettes, we can’t just go cold-turkey and go full EV, we need gum and patches. Enter the hybrid car.
Hybrids have been around so long that they’re starting to become old! With age comes parts breaking and needing replacement, just like any car part. What happens, however, when the hybrid battery itself goes out? You know, that thing that helps power your car. Should your knees tremble as they do when you open that first student loan bill?
To get into what a hybrid battery is, what types are out there, how they work, and how they die, The Drive’s sleepless editors have put together this guide to walk you through what to expect when you’re replacing a hybrid battery. Ready to get electrocuted? Just kidding!
What Is a Hybrid Car?
A hybrid vehicle is one that uses two types of fuel and energy sources to achieve a singular goal of efficient propulsion.
Types of Hybrids
Just as there are multiple types of combustion engines, there are also multiple types of hybrid powertrains. Let’s break it down into simple terms.
On mild hybrids, the electric components are not capable of directly driving the wheels on their own. Instead, a small battery pack and electric motor act as assistants to help improve fuel economy, slightly increase performance with bursts of torque, regenerate energy, and power accessories. One of the most common jobs for an electric motor in a mild hybrid is to double as a starter and power the start-stop technology. More capable and efficient mild hybrids with 48-volt battery packs have recently proliferated throughout the industry.
A full hybrid car has electric components that can directly drive the wheels on their own, without the gas engine. Different types of full hybrids include parallel hybrids, series hybrids, and plug-in hybrids.
And if you’d like to know more about hybrid cars, how they work, and other forms of hybrids, you can check out The Drive’s guide to The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Hybrid Car.
How Does a Hybrid Car’s Battery Work?
The most common type of hybrid vehicle blends a gasoline-powered combustion engine with one or more electric motors and a battery storage pack to achieve better fuel economy than a vehicle with only a combustion engine.
This works by the battery supplying some electrical energy to driven wheels, for example:
- A Prius blending electrical energy with gas
- An Acura NSX using only electrical energy to drive the front wheels
Hybrids also use regenerative braking to return small amounts of electricity to their batteries.
Do Hybrid Batteries Die?
They do! Like all batteries, car batteries have entropy dates. The batteries are mined, refined, built, slotted into a car, used, and one day, just like Lassie, they die. This may take several years and hundreds of thousands of miles, but at some point or another, they’ll go bad and you’ll need to replace it.
Dying Hybrid Battery Symptoms
Here are the most common symptoms you may experience when your hybrid car’s battery goes off to meet its maker.
Bad Fuel Economy
You may experience worsening fuel economy, which tells you that the battery isn’t doing its job.
Extremely Quick Battery Depletion
If the battery’s charge depletes extremely quickly, it may be getting long in the tooth.
Odd Electrical Fluctuations
Your car may experience weird electrical fluctuations depending on what else your hybrid battery powers.
Battery Not Kicking In
If the battery doesn’t actually kick in when it used to, the hybrid may be going out.
Clunky Driving Conditions
Since a hybrid battery drives the wheels at times, a bad or dying battery may affect your vehicle’s driving conditions. It may feel clunky or similar to a bad transmission.
What Causes a Hybrid Battery to Die?
Life? But in all seriousness, the wear and tear of a hybrid battery will be the same as the wear and tear of any car part. You can impact your car’s hybrid battery further by not taking care of it, though. Here are a few causes that could further impact your hybrid battery’s life.
Routinely Fully Depleting the Charge
Driving the car until the battery’s fully depleted every single time, then not recharging it for a little while will reduce the overall health of the battery. Likewise, constantly filling the battery up to 100-percent charge will decrease its longevity too due to thermal load.
You’re the biggest variable in your car’s reliability by a long shot. Take care of your car, follow its maintenance schedule, and it’ll take care of you.
As with anything, if you’re involved in an accident or damage the battery in some way, that can reduce the health and longevity of the hybrid battery considerably.
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That's why The Drive's partnered with Carvana to help you find your next ride! Are you ready to get your next car out of a vending machine?
FAQs About Hybrid Battery
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q. What Happens When You Run Out of Electricity in a Hybrid?
A. You keep driving! That’s the beauty of a hybrid: When your EV juice runs out, you’ve still got a tank of gas as a back up!
Q. So Can You Recharge a Hybrid Battery?
A. If you’re talking about recharging your car every night, sure! If you’re talking about after it dies, nope!
Q. But Can You Still Drive a Hybrid Without the Battery?
A. Short answer? Maybe. If the hybrid battery fails, you may be able to drive it, but the experience won’t be similar to that of a straight gasoline-powered car. It’ll likely be jerky and could damage the other drivetrain components. And if it’s a system in which it acts as an alternator and starter as well, you may be calling a tow truck.
Q. Ok, Then How Often Does a Hybrid Battery Need to be Replaced?
A. Here’s where there’s some disagreement. Though hybrids have been around for almost 20 years, there’s still not enough data to figure out when things will fail. Most manufacturers say between 100,000-150,000 miles, but depending on your level of care and how you drive, it could be more or less.
Q. Then Do Hybrid Cars Cost More to Maintain?
A. Not really. The only real extra cost in maintaining a hybrid is if the battery pack fails, and that’s pretty rare.
Q. How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Hybrid Car Battery?
A. Cost will depend on the car, but the average cost is between $1,000-$8,000.
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