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Why 2021 Toyota Prius Uses Both Lithium-ion and Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries

Toyota Hybrid vehicles use either Lithium-Ion or Nickel-Metal hydride batteries. The 2021 Prius uses both. We break it down for you.


Toyota Prius is the best-selling hybrid of all time and has been one of the most reliable and dependable cars on the market for two decades. In short, this is a vehicle owners can trust.

Of course, getting terrific fuel economy does not hurt one bit either. Current 2021 Toyota Prius is rated up to 58mpg in the city, 53mpg on the highway, and 56mpg combined (for the L Eco trim level).

I recently wrote a Torque News story about how long a Toyota hybrid battery generally lasts. This got me thinking more about batteries.

What about the different types of hybrid batteries? Toyota hybrid vehicles typically utilize either a Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) or Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.

One or the other.

A 2021 Prius uses both.

Time to analyze.

2021 Toyota Prius

You may recognize 2021 Toyota Prius trim levels, as they are coming from a familiar place. Just like on other popular Toyota models you will see L Eco, LE, XLE and Limited. These are front-wheel drive.

2021 Toyota Prius enginePrius also features all-wheel drive trims as well. They will be labeled as LE AWD-e and XLE AWD-e. Two all-wheel drive trim levels. The “e” stands for electric.

Both all-wheel drive Toyota Prius grades come with a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery. Nickel batteries can withstand harsher temperature changes. Therefore, this hybrid battery choice is ideal for colder climates where snow and ice and frigid temps are more prevalent.

Yes, I am talking to you Michigan and Boston and Denver drivers. I grew up in Michigan and learned to drive there. I wish I had something like Prius AWD-e.

Lithium-ion vs Nickel-Metal Hydride

The more familiar name here is Nickel-Metal Hydride. This hybrid battery has been around the longest. It is dependable and long-lasting.

Then again, so is Lithium-ion. That is the beauty here. Either Toyota hybrid battery type is reliable and trustworthy over time.

VIDEO YOU MAY ENJOY: Our Toyota master diagnostic technician consultant compares Nickel-Metal Hydride vs Lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion is the newer kid on the block. It is smaller and lighter than its NiMH counterpart. Although both can hold and store a similar level of power, the Lithium-ion battery is able to charge and discharge quicker.

A lighter battery like Lithium-ion may be advantageous in a hybrid, as it aids in getting Toyota Prius going easier and faster. Benefit for Li-ion.

2021 Toyota Prius Limited Supersonic Red front end Lithium-ion battery

One potential pitfall for Lithium-ion battery is that it does not last as long as NiMH in extremely high temperatures. Maybe I am talking about you Arizona. I had to pick a geography that is known for harsh heat. I was not singling you Arizonians out, I promise.

Lithium-ion is the more expensive technology compared against Nickel-Metal Hydride. The good news here is that Lithium-ion is becoming more and more common. Costs for both battery types should decrease over time.

I guess the take home message is that there is a place for both battery types in the Toyota hybrid world. Hopefully, it will give you some peace of mind knowing that both Nickel-Metal Hydride and Lithium-ion are incredibly dependable and will last you a long time.

If not, remember the new Toyota extended hybrid battery warranty that covers your hybrid battery for 10 years or 150,000 miles.

Yes, more and more peace of mind.

Time for your thoughts on Toyota Prius

Do you own a Toyota Hybrid like Prius or RAV4 Hybrid or Camry Hybrid or maybe RAV4 Prime? What is your experience so far? I would love your feedback.

How many miles do you have on your vehicle? What is your gas mileage typically?

I have driven a Toyota Prius AWD-e recently but only for short drives. What do you think of yours and how does it do in the snow and heavy rain?

Thanks for reading everyone. See you next story when I guide you on a video tour of a Toyota hybrid engine.

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Russ Massey (not verified)    February 5, 2021 - 5:47PM

Jeff, We ran an early 2006 Pruis from January 2006 to September 2016, 134,000mi. Overall fuel economy 45.06mpg. Besides commuting about 12 miles, a number of long out of state trips were included for vacations and children's colleges and after college, visits. It moved many boxes and other stuff.
We had no problems with the Hybrid Battery. After 8-9 years we replaced the 12v with an Optima. 100% dealer serviced. We had to get rid of it when the dealer could not fix it. It started missing and each time the code was different, They said all they could do was to replace parts that the code identified, like all the spark coils, one visit at a time. That got old after two parts. Then the A/C quit. We now have a 2016 or 2017 Subaru Forrester (no commuting on this car). The only problem was the 12V preventing the car from starting at random places. Subaru replaced the battery and so far smooth sailing. My Brother-in-law pointed me to Torque News.

Matthew DeGeorge (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 2:30AM

My 2008 Prius lasted 12.5 years and 357,000 miles on the same traction battery and had the 12v battey replaced at 300,000 miles

John (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 6:21AM

Hello, I have a couple of Toyota Prius’, I have a 2009 that I purchased brand new that now has around 260,000 miles. The average gas economy overall is around 42 miles a gallon but those are all mostly highway miles going about 75 miles an hour. So far so good as far as any repairs, I always do regular maintenance, every 3000 miles oil changes and such. I probably have put on at least six sets of tires and I’ve had to replace one cooling sensor. Last year I purchased another one which is a 2019 all-wheel-drive version. So far I’ve only had around 11,000 miles on it but the average gas economy is 51 miles per gallon! We’ve had quite a bit of snow this year and it does excellent in the snow in fact I’ve tried to push it to its limits to see what it can do and so far it hasn’t gotten stuck yet. These are great cars and thank you for posting the article.

L. Soroca (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 7:23AM

I own a 2010 Prius III with 193,000 miles and original high voltage batteries. I drive it almost every day 45 to 50 miles except very bad Snow days when I drive my Honda CRV. I replaced the low voltage 12 volt battery once but the original nickel metal hydride batteries are still cycling nicely. My car is garaged all year and has sun solar cooling fans that run in the summertime when I'm out of the car. I have Michelin Defender tires and average about 43 MPG. If I travel on the side roads, not parkway and keep speed 40-45 mph with stop and go I can average closer to 50 MPG.

John Patten (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 8:00AM

My 2004 Prius with NiM hydride original Battery was Augmented with Li Ion in 2008 , and converted to plug in , PHEV.
The car is still on the road in Chicago. So it has Both types of hybrid battery. Along with 12 v lead.

My 2012 and 2017 Priuses, are both OEM PHEV, the latter a Prime trim.

Maybe I will try the AWD next (i live i west Michigan, near the big lake)

Davidradzieta (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 8:00AM

I have never had a Nicad or NMH battery last over 3 years including our former Prius. My LION batteries rarely fail in less than 3 years. My wife's 3yo Nissan Leaf LION still easily exceeds the EPA range.

leif hietala (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 9:26AM

My 09 Prius is at 265,000 miles on its original traction battery. Mileage is down a bit right now due to winter weather and a tire change. The car's lifetime fuel economy has been about 49mpg, not great but slightly above the EPA estimate so no complaints.
I'm committed to hybrids or EVs. My experience has proven that a conservative battery management system can take good care of the batts and the doomsayers are unnecessarily pessimistic. The savings of this car's fuel economy vs. the one it replaced means it was essentially free. I'm not going back.

Pb (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 10:22AM

It is kind of sad that the Prius is only averaging around 45 mpg in most of these comments. My 2020 Rav4 Hybrid averaged 46.3 over 20,000 miles I put on it and it is AWD. Why even bother buying a small car like the Prius if fuel economy is no better than a Rav4? I should mention as well that I routinely got into the 70 mpg range with the Rav4 Hybrid if I drove lightly but I drive it like it's a race car most of the time, hence the 46.3. My commute is 38 miles one way and about 75% rural mountainous roads with the remaining 25% highway.

18Prius (not verified)    March 18, 2021 - 12:24PM

In reply to by Pb (not verified)

Your experience is an anomaly. We own a 2018 Prius and had a 2019 RAV hybrid (traded it off due to quality issues).

Prius will routinely and easily get 10+ MPG better than a RAV hybrid on the same road and conditions. I say this as someone with extensive seat time in both.

Fuelly is a good source for what people are getting for real world MPG. If you look there, the average Prius driver is getting over 50 mpg combined. The average RAV hybrid owner with the current gen car is getting 34-ish.

I'd bet good money you're the only person in the USA driving a RAV and averaging 46.3. Keep that one, because it is a unicorn.

john (not verified)    April 28, 2022 - 8:03AM

In reply to by 18Prius (not verified)

Quality issues? Was it the fuel tank problem? I could not put more than 8 or 9 gallons in mine and could nowhere close to the range I was supposed to get. Toyota did not have a fix so I got rid of it. After a car accident, I need another car. Now I wonder if Toyota fixed the Rav4 issues but honestly I could use the extra 10 MPG the Prius gets over the Rav4.

Eugene (not verified)    June 28, 2022 - 5:32PM

In reply to by john (not verified)

I have a 2021 Toyota Prius LE with roughly 24K miles (the model with the battery in the lower front-right of the engine under the hood used to start it). I left my car parked for a little over a month recently. Bouncie alerted me the battery was “critical” the other day so I went to drive it. The whole console was dead and it wouldn’t even open the door (so I used the key hidden in the key fob). So I used my Hulkman jump starter from Amazon and it fired up immediately. I’m considering replacing that standard car battery with the exact same one only in lithium ion. Toyota doesn’t carry it, but the parts guy said he thinks it’s a great idea and to the best of his knowledge doesn’t void the Prius warranty. What do you think? Start it up weekly, trickle charge it with a plug-in charger like the NOCO Genius 10 (which says it’s compatible with the Prius), or get a lithium ion battery to replace the standard car battery to extend the charge of a month up to a year (meaning I could travel abroad and store it for up to a year without the mess of using the storage procedure)?

Jeffrey Sims (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 10:41AM

Hey Jeff, I had a 2004 Prius. Bought it in 2016 with 61K miles, traded it in 2020 with 188K miles. No issues at all other than oil changes every 5K miles and one 12V battery change. I upgraded to a 2013 Prius V last August and I'm quite pleased. The '04 averaged about 45 MPG, the V averages about 48 if I drive it bentley. We like the extra room in the V for vacation travel. We live in Florida and travel with beach stuff, our dog, dog beds, coolers etc. Plenty of room for all of this stuff. I'll probably upgrade again in another 4 years or when I reach 100 K miles. I really like the ride and comfort of this car and most importantly it's reliability.

Brody R (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 11:07AM

I live in central Wisconsin and have a 2013 Prius 89,000 miles, mostly short trips, mostly garaged. When I replaced the original tires I bought 2 new sets, Summer tires for April through November and snow tires Dec through March. I get 49 mpg in summer and 43 in winter. It wasn't great in the winter with the original tires, The snow tires made a huge difference! And the summer tires make it very responsive. Haven't had a single mechanical problem. Probably the best car I've owned. We recently had a big snowfall. I brushed off 7 inches of snow and wondered if I might get stuck plowing through all that? Nope, she took right off. No worries in Sconnie

Ed Burrell (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 12:34PM

I am a 2nd owner of a 2004 Prius Hybrid since 2012. Purchased my 2 nd starter battery in 2018. The problem is starter battery drains power in winter when 1 to 2 cold days below 25 to 30 degree weather. It used to take 2 to 3 days of 20 to about 30 degrees weather for it not to start. I had Prius towed in to dealer 3 different occasions for cold weather not being able to start. The dealer has put car on slow charges for 1.5 hrs. Then it starts/ runs. Dealer said the Starter battery charges up to 80 to 90%capacity. Again on cold consecutive days My Prius will not start since 20 degree weather in Chicago. But, I see other Prius vehicles driving on the streets. Mine is not garage kept. Is there a voltage drainage in cold weather. Dealer informed me to drive my car every 1 to 2 days to keep voltage up to max. I did drive car daily, even the days before it did not start. I love my Prius. Help me figure this one out.

DC (not verified)    February 8, 2021 - 1:39PM

In reply to by Ed Burrell (not verified)

We had a 2005 Gen 2 Prius. It was a wonderful car overall.

First off - the "starter battery" that you're talking about is probably the 12V lead acid battery, which powers all of the electronics and lights. There is no starter on the Prius, which uses the electric motor to start the car. The electric motor is powered by the hybrid battery. But without any power in the 12V battery, the car does not start up because it needs its electronics.

After some resistance against the "new tech" keyless system, we got used to it using it without second thought. However, the Gen 2 keyless system was still power hog compared with the Gen 3 system (we now have a 2013 Prius Plug-In).

There was a button underneath the steering column that allowed you to turn the keyless system on or off. If you were gone for more than a few days, the system needed to be turned off. Otherwise, you would return home to a car that wouldn't turn on because the keyless system drained the 12V battery. You would then need to use a standard battery charger to get juice back into the 12V battery.

When our 2005 Prius got into its final accident in 2013, we were still able to drive it around despite the driver side door being bashed in a bit. Even after I turned off all interior lights, we would need to charge 12V batter pretty much every time in order to turn on the car. Not sure what was draining the system, but after a few weeks (when the tow truck took away our car for the final time), it was no longer our problem.

Long story short, something is draining the 12V battery. The most likely culprit is the keyless system constantly looking for a key, or some other problem that is occupying the system. But it can also be something else, from the electronics to the lights (exterior and interior). See if the dealer can find the problem.

Also, get yourself a battery tender or charger. You don't need the jump chargers. You just need something that will get enough juice into the 12V battery to allow your car to start up, then you keep the ICE engine on to charge the battery (easier said than done in a hybrid).

John (not verified)    February 20, 2021 - 8:59PM

In reply to by Ed Burrell (not verified)

I had 2011 Prius sometimes it would make buzzing after getting out and setting awhile to stop the buzzing I would open and close the door or start it and turn it to stop the buzzing.
I got out of the car and didn't completely turn it off and it started buzzing I enored the buzzing it started back up okay when I return but later starting buzzing and wouldn't stop a relay was stuck and ran the 12v battery replaced battery , relay and shifter assembly recommend by Toyota I think it just needed relay and battery charged I owned it for about 11 years over 106k miles best car I have ever owned trade for 2021 Venza hybrid hope it does as well as the Prius

Tom (not verified)    September 13, 2021 - 5:29PM

In reply to by Ed Burrell (not verified)

I would definitely check the charger (alternator) then replace the battery. Depending on the battery type you can get a deep cycle version of it that won't get killed by discharges.

William S (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 2:09PM

I have a 2010 Prius with only 30,000 miles on it but I have had to replace the 12 V battery three times and I'm having problems with the 12 V battery again and I am probably going to have to replace it the fourth time unfortunately I have lived in Colorado and I am presently in Michigan so cold weather is killing my 12 V batteries very quickly and since they only have 46 A/hr ratings there isn't much power to spare in single Digit and below temperatures Would love to have better battery performance in the winter but cannot afford to buy a new 2021 model

Dave (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 4:27PM

My 2010 Prius has 230,000 miles It uses a Qt of oil every 1000 and gets 47mpg. Up to 150,000 I could get 52mpg but that is no longer. I had to have the EGR system cleaned at 200,000 & had brakes at the same time. I would replace this car with another Prius.

Jamo (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 7:17PM

The traction of the 2021 Prius awd is nothing short of spectacular, at least with snow tires. After driving 40 winters in Fairbanks,AK and 12 driving a 2008 Prius in the ski town of Winthrop, WA, we got a 2021 Prius awd some 3 months and 4,000 miles ago. We have had two dumps of over a foot each. The Prius needed no more plowing than it did itself whether through fresh snow or trenches left by trucks through neighborhoods. In one case, we stupidly got into trenches at the top of loup loup pass in a snow park that I was sure we would not get out of. But, it made it, dragging bottom all the way.

The awd Prius does so well it makes me think that there is something about the electric drive rear wheels that gives them better traction.

mike smith (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 7:36PM

Camry Hybrid 2020 here, getting about 5 to 6 litres per 100k here. NMH battery, which is probably a good thing in Australia.

vic (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 10:41PM

2012 Camry xle and my wife's 2006 Prius - both use 40mpg (5.9l) in winter , after 110k miles (173000km) - summer consumption is 10%lower. I drive slow and smooth, she is always in hurry

Ilya Tseglin (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 11:02PM

I own Toyota Prius 2007 since 2010. It was replaced engine under 120,000 miles due to excessive oil leak and replaced hybrid batterie under 160,000 miles. All together it cost mee around $8,000.
The average m/g is 41.

The car receive immaculate maintenance and work well with 204,000 miles now.

Craig Simonson (not verified)    February 7, 2021 - 12:34AM

Hi Jeff and followers! I am the original owner of a 2001 Gen1, it is the 3356th ever shipped to the U.S. Driven on daily commute for almost 20 years now, with 210k. Replaced 12v three times, and traction battery 2 years ago at 180k for a cost of $2350, which included tech driving 120 miles to install.
Fuel mileage has gone down as car has aged, now getting 42 in winter, 46 summer. Once was 46/50...

We also have a 2012 Prius C with 80k that still gets 52mpg. Anxiously awaiting the rollout of Toyota's solid-state battery tech for their fully electric model!

Glenn Carr (not verified)    February 7, 2021 - 9:33AM

I have a 2013 Prius with 112k miles on it. Absolutely the best, most reliable car we've ever owned. We always used synthetic oil... It has the original 12v battery. The biggest issue we've had is replacing the intermittent wiper switch...

Charles Rananto (not verified)    February 7, 2021 - 11:16AM

We have a 2017 Prius V with ~42000. We love our Prius and use it every day instead of other cars to ok save gas. It has never been wrecked or bumped into but lately we have been getting avoidance control errors on and off and i noticed that when i turn right or left when slowing down i can hear a lot of consistant clicking going on. Anyone having same issues?

Joe Hertz (not verified)    April 23, 2021 - 9:43AM

I have a 2008 Prius with 274,644 miles. The red triangle of death warning light came on last week, and after having the codes read, the original traction battery is finally going bad in 1 module. My dilemma is, should I replace the car? or the battery? There are companies that build replacement batteries either restored, rehabbed, or new, for around the $1500 mark. My thought are about replacing the battery for one more year, then selling, or buy a new one now. Can't decide.