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The New Repair For Toyota Prius Hybrid Batteries May Be Lithium-Ion

If we are being honest with ourselves Nickel Metal is now ancient technology. While durable, there are now better options and the answer is right under our nose.

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Do you know how long nickel-metal hydride has been around? 1967. That is a very long time. Now nickel metal has been used in various capacities since then, but it ultimately found a home in our modern era.

Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius have been using this tech since 1997 when Prius first came into our lives. Since then, there has been little in the way of advancement. In the last ten years, there has been more involved with learning about battery repair regarding reconditioning and module replacement. These processes are necessary but have only given us very few advancements.

Toyota Prius Hybrid BatteryA battery that goes through reconditioning does work, but the capacity loss does not allow for optimal fuel economy. Most people do not understand that with a battery that has aged, it simply cannot perform as a new battery does; it is not possible.

Now for some people, this does not matter, and to others, it does. After having 12 hybrids, I have learned a few things about nickel metal and the way it performs. I have learned how it ages and wears out over time. In short, I know the shelf life.

So what if I wanted to keep my Prius because I love it so much? Well, what I am about to share with you is a way you can.

Lithium-Ion Replacements Are In Test Phase
I cannot say who or what is going on, but I can give you some information. There is a company out there right now that has lithium-ion replacement modules in the test phase.

I know enough to be able to say that what this company is doing is real. I have seen the prototype, but I want to ensure they are protected and do not get overloaded with questions.

Toyota Prius Lithium Ion Battery Replacement in the works

What they have done is to do new lithium-ion modules to replace the old nickel metal. The process requires complete battery disassembly and installation of these new, power-packed modules.

After talking with this person, the batteries are going into the test phase to see how they will fare in a real-life driving scenario.

Lithium is a far more volatile technology, and because of that, safety is number one. Simply put, lithium is not something you can toss into an unknown situation. Testing must be done.

When Could We See Production?
Going forward into full-scale production, this is a grey area for a couple of reasons. First, as time goes on, older Prius models are going to go off the road slowly. Fewer cars, fewer products to produce, the need for it may not be viable.

Second, testing and refining the product to be mass-produced will take time, which plays into my first thought. If full testing and production for these new lithium batteries take longer than three years, I do not think large scale viability will be a thing. Small scale for enthusiasts, absolutely.

I have a secret I will not share here about the testing process, mainly for confidentiality reasons. However, I will say I have an excellent idea of what is going on.

I promise that as I can share more about what is happening, I will fill you all in with the updates and the story. I hope to see viability for a lithium replacement and keep our old cars on the road. I love my '08 and '09. I think they are some of the best vehicles built on the planet, that is my opinion, of course, but millions of Prius owners think so too.

Anyway, have a great day, and keep checking back with more updates to see what is happening.

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Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.

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David radzieta (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 6:34AM

This is great news. Having owned and loved a couple Prius I can say those metal hydride batteries were horrible. But they did assist your mileage some even with only 25 to 50% remaining capacity

Tom (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 6:34AM

As a Prius owner I can agree that these are durable, well put together cars. My Prius is 10 years old with 110k miles. The trade in value is $3,900. What will these new lithium batteries cost? A new replacement of the current battery is $2,500 not installed. Assuming lithium is more costly, replacing the battery with one that cost more than the value of the car itself doesn’t make sense unless you feel that one day these will be collector cars. Highly unlikely. Unfortunately, these cars are disposable after the battery dies even if the rest of the car is in good working order. Replacing the battery with a lithium battery is a fools dream.

JEREMY Shawn MOORE (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 10:57AM

In reply to by Tom (not verified)

A lot of people are attached to their cars and will spend nearly what it's worth to extend their life. That's not true for everyone. But it's true for enough people to sell these batteries.

Dàve (not verified)    November 15, 2020 - 10:00AM

In reply to by German Ortiz (not verified)

If you haven't yet, you will soon see a drop in mpg because ford's engineers assumed a ten year old battery would be weak. You will need to go into your car's computer and tell it that the battery is newer. I had to do this on my 2010 Fusion hybrid.

Leif Hietala (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 7:50AM

This content reads like a conspiracy theorist's blog.

And that's terrible because I'm actually a little familiar with Neilson's background and work. I know he's not a flake, but all this reads like puffery padding out a thin story the author cannot flesh out because of disclosure restrictions.

I'll admit I'm intrigued but disappointed by the level of journalism. Sit on the story until you have a story to tell, rather than this rumor-level story that amounts to not much more than a headline.

Alexander Peij… (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 4:27PM

In reply to by Leif Hietala (not verified)

Agree with you there. It almost sounds like Trevor Milton and his fuel cells. He could at least given some more figures. Like what the new battery can store, the weight of it, the price, maybe what it does for fuel consumption. At least a few of these things should be known before you can even start testing. Otherwise the whole product is obsolete, if it's not cheaper, better performing or lighter.

Mark (not verified)    October 24, 2020 - 12:10AM

In reply to by Alexander Peij… (not verified)

Keeping mum about a product one is developing is not unusual. Especially if the product is one assembled form available components. Cobbling together a solution means one has a very low barrier to entry or theft of the idea. Making sure they have the details nailed down and the appropriate IP protection is only wise.
If the product was a consequence of new technology then they could tease some more info with fair confidence that the average person or even a competitor would not be likely to dot the i's or cross the t's.

JEREMY Shawn MOORE (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 10:54AM

I wouldn't want a lithium ion replacement for my hybrid. Lithium iron phosphate would be great and could probably go to a more full charge and discharge by 10% on both ends. While maintaining longevity. But I don't want the relatively fast degredation of lithium ion batteries

geemy (not verified)    October 25, 2020 - 2:12PM

In reply to by karl (not verified)

it's easier to bring the battery within temperature range in an hybrid than in a BEV. just use the wasted heat from the ICE engine. of course for very short drive it might be an issue. if warming up the battery makes the engine slower to get to temperature, then it's not worth generating more emissions, lower fuel economy. warming the battery with excess heat should start only when engine is hot. if the battery has a reduced range because of the cold but can still deliver power then it makes more sense to use as much electric power as possible from the battery, which will also bring it up to temperature, and having lower load on the ICE as long as it's cold and then start recharging the battery when ICE has reached it's optimum temperature. about li ion, my 500e sure has much less range in the winter, but cabin can be warmed up right when it's started and 100% of the power is available unlike ICEs

homer (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 11:33AM

How does one definitively determine the original hybrid battery is defective? Does anyone know what criteria Toyota uses to determine if it falls under warranty or not?

Mark (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 1:07PM

The price of an OEM replacement battery will always be very high. Just as any OEM part is more expensive than an independently produced part.
that said, as the author notes the development of a Li-ion replacement is not a simple thing.Cooling and BMS need to be engineered to a very high degree of confidence. However, if successful they offer the possibility of a replacement that is either lighter for a comparable capacity or a battery with more capacity and thus a greater contribution to economy.

John (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 2:06PM

Considering that Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LiFePo4) is a much less volatile chemistry, and that the new Tesla's are going that route using 4380 tabless cells - which increases power density by about 15% over 18650 types..

It seems only natural to use this more advanced tech instead of going incremental & still being 2 generations behind!

RJ (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 2:55PM

Module replacement is not as expensive as a complete battery swap so the economics can be a little better. Plus, the existing power capacity is very low so the modules could be far less dense. The issue is likely enhanced charging and protection algorithms which may require an add on controller that also emulates the old chemistry for existing Toyota controllers. I believe gen3 Prii will be a longer term candidate for lithium.

Andy (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 3:33PM

I bought new prius 2020 high spec . I hate this car way as been designed it is just stupid salute designers quality management all of you should be ashamed what was created. Just wonder if any if them has has a car before .
List of specifications big but quality it is a scandal . My first and last toyota in my life very disappointed

Mark (not verified)    October 24, 2020 - 12:04AM

In reply to by Andy (not verified)

You bought a top of the line car yet did not take a test drive and examine what you were buying?
I can understand if the car was breaking down repeatedly but you are complaining about things that are in plain sight.

Baker (not verified)    October 24, 2020 - 1:52PM

In reply to by Andy (not verified)

Get a volt they are far superior. I know they stopped making them in 2019 but there are plenty of used ones I get 65 to 70 miles a charge In town on mine. Better than rated at 54 miles.

Martin Duffy (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 6:31PM

Seattle Toyota dealers have new second and third generation set of modules for $1650. I can do local mobile install for $1000. The batteries typically last 10-15 years at least. I have also recharged and or replaced many modules on used ones to extend their lives. I currently own 3.

Alan Clarke (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 6:45PM

I don't see the point. By the time it's engineered, certified and approved for Insurance & Fire - it'll be a very expensive retrofit.

And it'd still be an old PRIUS - better to spend $$$ to upgrade to a modern Gen 4 PRIUS, considerably more economical, a dramatically better drive than the old ones.

Christopher Williams (not verified)    October 23, 2020 - 11:36PM

I think this would be extremely unlikely we will see this. Prius on-board charging is calibrated to supply electricity back to a battery with the characteristics of metal hydride, not lithium-ion. The Prius charge controller would likely have to be reprogrammed (if possible) or replaced. This seems like a very cost-ineffective solution.

Niol Lockington (not verified)    October 24, 2020 - 3:29AM

I bought my 3rd Prius in 2012. It is a V model with 7 seats. The centre console armrest is quite shallow because the Lithium Ion batteries live in the console. Just coming up to 100,000 km. Back tyres are original. I use 4.5 litres per 100km of 91 grade. That's about 63 mpg but our gallons are bigger than yours. 4 of ours = 5 of yours. The batch mine came with was destined for Europe but got canceled and sent to Auckland. It was a bargain, $10,000 off. I bought it sight unseen and put it on visa over the phone.