Hi everyone, Pete The Hybrid Guy here. Today I want to cover a small topic on when talking about hybrid battery repair for your Toyota Prius.
Hybrid battery repair is one of the hottest topics still because many do not know how to do it right. I have written several articles on this subject to help Prius and other hybrid owners with failing traction batteries. You can check them out here.
The topic for today is bus bar cleaning or nickel plating. I want to walk you through the idea behind cleaning the bus bars and why some are battery reman places are going the distance to plate them.
Toyota Hybrid Battery Bus Bar
The bus bars are small copper plates that join two batter modules together. These tiny joiners are responsible for keeping stable electron flow between modules.
When we have bus bars that get corrosion on them, it slows the electron flow and can be a contributor to the famous P0A80 replace hybrid battery trouble code.
With all the technology we have today, is there a way that we can inhibit corrosion from happening and keep that good electron flow? The answer is yes, and no. Next, we are going to look at the pros and cons of cleaning bus bars vs. nickel plating them.
Nickel Plating Vs Cleaning Bus Bars
When it comes to metal conductivity, copper is a hard one to beat. According to our friends over at bluesea.com, copper has an IACS rating (International Annealed Copper Standard) of 100. Copper is the standard here. Every other metal that is conductive works in relation to the 100% conductivity rating that copper has, hence the copper standard.
According to bluesea, copper still has resistance, but what is more interesting is what other metals are like compared to copper. Nickel, for instance (pure nickel), is a 7% conductive rating, meaning that nickel is only as good at flowing electrons 93% less than copper (based on a genuine nickel substitute). I am hoping I read this chart right. To me, that looks correct.
So if nickel is such a terrible conductor compared to copper, why are hybrid battery builders choosing to nickel plate bus bars? What a great question, and the answer is this. Corrosion resistance. Nickel is corrosion resistant as where copper we all know will grow that green stuff on it that slows the flow.
So, wait, is nickel plating better or not? Again, great question. Remember how pure nickel is only 7% conductive compared to copper, well, that is pure nickel. Nickel plating is only a surface coating that surrounds the internal copper. Now take this for what it is worth I am no chemist. If we are only inhibiting the electron flow properties slightly, should we be able to see the benefits of copper with the benefits of nickel?
It is this question that I am looking to get answered. Now I have done the nickel plating bus bars on a hybrid battery before. The process turned out great. I was able to plate all my bus bars for less than $30 with a homemade solution.
Toyota used copper bus bars for a reason. More than likely, it was from a cost standpoint. Copper is easy to come by; it is highly conductive and is very robust. Why did Toyota not nickel plate if it would have helped? Imagine having an additional 100 million dollar cost added into the bottom like of all the Prius ever made. It was not cost-effective to do it.
I believe that nickel plating can help with the corrosion on your bus bars. If you live in a high humidity area, you may want to consider it. Copper, when treated and taken care of, will last a very long time and give you the "standard" flow you are looking to have.
Is nickel plating better than cleaning your copper? Not necessarily. If you do not want to open your pack up every five years or so and go through your battery, the plating may be for you. There is a reason that many reman battery companies are using nickel-plated bus bars.
I have used both copper and nickel-plated bus bars on my batteries. I can tell zero difference in the performance of the battery. It is a fun science project to do with your kids or students, so there is that.
Have you been rebuilding a pack and are lost or do not know what to do? Drop me a line on Twitter or find me on Facebook. I am always happy to help. That is all for today; let me know if this helped you out.
I look forward to seeing you in the next story. Why You Should Spend About $1000 For Maintenance On Your Gen 3 Toyota Prius
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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