Fixing a Toyota Camry Hybrid Battery for Under Ten Dollars

[scoodidabop] is the happy new owner of a pre-owned Toyota Camry hybrid. Well at least he was up until his dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. He did some Google research to figure out what all of the warning lights meant, but all roads pointed to taking his car into the dealer. After some diagnostics, the Toyota dealer hit [scoodidabop] with some bad news. He needed a new battery for his car, and he was going to have to pay almost $4,500 for it. Unfortunately the car had passed the manufacturer’s mileage warranty, so he was going to have to pay for it out-of-pocket.

[scoodidabop] is an electrician, so he’s obviously no stranger to electrical circuits. He had previously read about faulty Prius batteries, and how a single cell could cause a problem with the whole battery. [scoodidabop] figured it was worth testing this theory on his own battery since replacing a single cell would be much less expensive than buying an entire battery.

He removed the battery from his car, taking extra care not to electrocute himself. The cells were connected together using copper strips, so these were first removed. Then [scoodidabop] tested each cell individually with a volt meter. Every cell read a voltage within the normal range. Next he hooked up each cell to a coil of copper magnet wire. This placed a temporary load on the cell and [scoodidabop] could check the voltage drop to ensure the cells were not bad. Still, every cell tested just fine. So what was the problem?

[scoodidabop] noticed that the copper strips connecting the cells together were very corroded. He thought that perhaps this could be causing the issue. Having nothing to lose, he soaked each and every strip in vinegar. He then wiped down each strip with some steel wool and placed them into a baking soda bath to neutralize the vinegar. After an hour of this, he reassembled the battery and re-installed it into his car.

It was the moment of truth. [scoodidabop] started up his car and waited for the barrage of warning lights. They never came. The car was running perfectly. It turned out that the corroded connectors were preventing the car from being able to draw enough current. Simply cleaning them off with under $10 worth of supplies fixed the whole problem. Hopefully others can learn from this and save some of their own hard-earned money.

186 thoughts on “Fixing a Toyota Camry Hybrid Battery for Under Ten Dollars

    1. Prius was released in the late 90s. Like all the Toyota models the mk1 was never officially exported from Japan but lots ended up in the UK. The Mk2 was released in the UK in about 2002 so they are pretty old by now by any standard.

    1. I think I would probably just buy a new fricking car before I would pay $4500 for a new battery. Just like I would buy a new ink jet printer than pay the prices for new ink. Or a new projector rather than pay the prices for the lamps. Are we heading towards throwaway cars as well? lol

        1. I never said I could buy a new car for $4500. I said I would rather buy a new car than pay $4500 for a battery. $4500 is a very significant chunk of a new car price. That’s kinda like buying a new engine. And why many people buy a new car when their engine blows. If you had $4500 worth of damage to your car, your insurance company would often consider it totaled, unless you are talking about an overpriced $45K-60K hybrid, of course.

          Just like the inkjet example… $45 for new cartridges, or $65 for a new printer with starter ink? I can get a whole new, latest model printer for only $20 more or I can pay $45 for ink twice to keep an old printer running that is likely to have other problems down the road.

          If you are interested in paying too much for your car and it’s maintanence just to be ‘green’, go for it. I’ll stick with my $16K ICE car that has only cost me $800 in repairs in 14 years.

          1. Except that the $45 replacement cartridges might have 3X or 4X the ink of the starter cartridges. Having said that: to hell with inkjet — ink dries out before I can use it anyway. Get one of the Brother color lasers, and don’t look back.

          2. “Having said that: to hell with inkjet — ink dries out before I can use it anyway. ” Hence why I said twice and clogging. I have a brother laser printer. Had an HP color laser printer when they first came out, but sold it because I never really used it. 99% of what I want to print is B&W anyway. The other 1% I just print at work.

          3. It’s not much of a printer that dies after 2 ink carts. Still, if it does, you can replace it with a compatible one just for what you’d save on having to buy new ink for a new printer.

      1. A new projector lamp is under 100$ while most decent projectors cost 600+. Also almost all printers come with setup cartridges that only are good for around 100 pages. A 950xl black cartridge costs as little as 13$ and is good for 2300 pages. The printer that takes those cartridges costs about 100$ on sale.

      2. Thing is your new printer won’t come with more ink than you’d get buying the cartridge. And your old printer’s then worthless. I think they figured your plan out ahead of time and had it covered. Often you get a “starter cartridge” that’s good for 10 pages or so.

    2. wait does anyone even remotely buy the argument of economic savings over gas powered cars? reading the comments I’m afraid so; I though people silently knew that gas cars are way cheaper to own over hybrids but PR forces us to speak otherwise?

        1. It is sad that you will miss out on the savings. Lots of people are able to make owning a hybrid or electric work for them. If your employer pays you a high mileage rate, and you own a very reliable, low gas mileage car, then most of that mileage check goes into your pocket. Or if your lease or payment was going to be about the same between both choices, it makes more sense to with lower mpg given the inevitable rise of fuel prices in the future.

          To the smart buyer, it can be a win-win-win. If you can’t see that then it’s just your loss.

          1. What about when the electric companies begin charging more for electricity to support all these charging electric cars? Then what?

            Well, first of all, now everyone who didn’t own an electric car has to pay the higher electricity cost as well.

            Sigh….

          2. Electric companies will charge less when there is more electric cars. It’s economics 101. Energy is a commodity. So no…. it will not cost everybody more. Quite the contrary.

      1. The answer to that directly correlates to the number of brain cells one set aside for rational thinking.

        A lot of electric car owners that I meet in person seem to have this idea that electric cars (or motorcycles) are the wave of the future and everyone, every single person on the planet, needs to buy an electric car. Anyone who drives anything else is an enemy of the planet.

        I have no problem with electric vehicles but I would very much appreciate it if the manufacturers, politicians and environmentalists stop trying to make that form of locomotion the panacea of travel.

        1. It’s certainly better for most travel being done. Concentrating polluting power production at power plants means it can be dealt with more efficiently, and that the pollutants aren’t ejected into residential areas, as they are now.

          Also, once everything is electricity, we’ll finally stop being dependent on foreign oil. And we might be inclined to pursue high-volume clean power generation.

          1. “Also, once everything is electricity, we’ll finally stop being dependent on foreign oil.” Seriously? Sorry dude, the Star Trek convention is over.

            Electric vehicles are not the panacea everyone wants them to be, they never will. Once the electric-only crowd owns up to this fact, we’ll get greater acceptance for electric, not less.

            This isn’t really a Ford vs Chevrolet sort of nonsense, it’s not actually about protecting the environment (another argument entirely). Thing is, there is never going to be a Star Trek utopia where everyone is working towards a common goal of exploration and knowledge. We’re never going to find that ZPM from an ancient civilization. There is no Unobtanium, no Spice Melange. And I’m sorry, solar towers are not friendly to the environment, proof you really can’t have it both ways environmentalists. The resources that we, as a planet have, is limited. For everything that we do, there is a price to pay, always. That’s the harsh reality.

            Hey, don’t take it the wrong way, it *would* be nice to remove dependency on foreign oil. But is forcing every soul in the U.S., and by extension the world, to depend on electric locomotion the answer to removing dependency on foreign oil? Keep walking.

            Energy needs isn’t as simple as “…once everything is electricity…” That’s a fallacy, just like it’s an equal fallacy to have nothing but gas guzzlers driving around.

            The real answer is, “to put your eggs in more than one basket,” as it were. Research and develop marketable alternatives while continuing with ICE as a viable option. Not as an interim, not “until electric vehicles improve,” I mean literally keeping them around as viable alternatives long after the acceptance of electric. We did it with steam (look underneath New York), so using ICE along with hybrids (heavy machinery) and pure electric only makes sense. Use all the tools we have at our disposal, not just the damn hammer.

          2. @Esel seriously?…… seriously?
            Electric motors will always be more efficient than ICEs, and any incremental improvement is valid and should be explored. Electric vehicles ARE the best solution for 99% of the population that wants independent local transportation. You’ll own one electric and one ICE or Hybrid for longer range.

            Imagine waking up to a full tank everyday, near silent transportation, no exhaust. Next steps toward “Utopia” would include distributed solar power production from rooftops, improvements to the aging grid, and vehicle’s charged by the sun. This isn’t unattainable fiction, it is available now, so it is just a matter making it so.

            This isn’t something worth arguing against, it is just a logical progression of technology. LIke LED light bulbs you get something in return for paying a premium, a superior product. Electric motors are superior to ICEs for local travel. And there are more varied sources for generating electricity, a much better basket for eggs.

          3. “Electric motors will always be more efficient than ICEs”

            That’s a very myopic view of the issue. Electric motors are efficient (with caveats), but electric batteries, the electric grid, the electric generators, the electronics to control the motors, all combined aren’t.

            Take for example a concept called ESOI, or Energy Stored on Investment. The ESOI of a lead acid battery is about 2 which means it takes half the energy to make the battery than it can ever store in its lifetime. The ESOI of a Lithium-ion battery is about 10.

            If you take the whole chain from energy source to the shaft of the electric motor, it’s not actually any more efficient than a modern ICE car. It’s debatable whether there’s any reductions in fossil fuel use under the current infrastructure, and the future requirements of the renewable energy production grid will always see a mix of liquid fuels and gasses alongside with electricity because of the massive grid scale energy storage problem.

            That means the ICE will never really go away. Battery electric vehicles are more likely to be superceded with fuel cell vehicles simply for cost and convenience reasons.

          4. Dax I think you need to re-analyze that study done on the ESOI of batteries. The study was done extremely poorly and based on full charge-discharge cycles and the data was all poorly done extrapolation. It wasn’t based in reality whatsoever. One example: They expect that a grid sized lead acid battery will only be charged/discharged 700 times over it’s lifetime. The reality is it will maintain a constant charge for most of it’s close to it’s ideal capacity.

            Another thing to point out is that grid energy storage in batteries has basically become obsolete anyway, so the whole argument is moot. The best form of grid level storage we currently have is molten salt which has a recovery efficiency on average of about %99. Hydro storage is about %95 and there is new weight/railcar systems that will be somewhat similar.

      2. I dunno, you’d have to work out the improved MPG of hybrids, gas prices, and how far you actually drive. Obviously the more you drive the more you’ll save per unit time.

        If you count plug-in electric hybrids then it’s very different. All electric cars should support plug-in charge, I dunno if pressure from petro companies impedes that. Then again you need a bigger battery to run on electricity for any distance, rather than just reducing wastage like a hybrid does. Still, pure electrics exist, batteries are only getting cheaper. Even if petro companies buy half the US government, there’ll come a time they can’t compete, simply on cost. A simple electric motor and battery should be a lot cheaper in the end, than all the precision gubbins that goes into a petrol engine. There’s no shortage of Lithium.

        1. So if everyone switches to all electric cars, wouldn’t that require a great deal of infrastructure change to support charging all those batteries all day long? Where is THAT energy going to come from?

          There is no such things as free energy and it always takes more of one energy to convert it to another. Everything is a resource. According to the law of conservation, if we covered the planet with solar panels, we would be putting the sun out quicker. That sounds ridiculous of course, but only because of the abundance of the resource of the sun. We can’t fathom THAT far out, but it is true nonetheless according to all physics that we know.

          The point is that no matter how you try to argue this, all we are doing is trading one problem for another. In 70 years, people will be screaming about solar panels killing the sun and we will have a new crisis for the hippies to clamp on to. It’s never going to end, until literally the end. And I am betting on us being wiped off the earth long before we ever make the impact that activists scream about. There have been activists for thousands of years screaming over one crisis or another, and yet we are still here.

          I’d put money on our own extinction occurring first, except that would be rather pointless.

          1. @Justice_099 Why go to extremes? Did you know that the entire planet’s energy needs could theoretically be supplied by solar panels, and we’d only need to cover and area the size of Spain to do it. Of course, you’d split that area up and spread it around the globe and it wouldn’t be much. That’s not saying we’d never need fossil fuels, we would, but we’d then be able to use our reserves for more important things.

            You’re right that there are trade-offs, that nothing is a perfect fix, but that doesn’t mean that you should miss out on advancements. Making incremental improvements to everything in our lives is exactly how we got to where we are today. I really don’t understand how people ignore all of the positives for a couple of moot point negatives.

          2. You know, you people are so quick to scream how we need to try this new thing when we may not realize the consequences of that new thing for hundreds of years. Instead of using the things were ALREADY know the consequences of and then working to solve that problem.

            Sure, these flashy new fads look great now because we don’t know what it will really cost us yet and you will be long dead before anyone can tell you how wrong you all were.

            Do you honestly believe your generation is the very first ever to be smart? In 70 years, the story is going to be how the greedy rich industrialists pushed a ‘green’ movement to destroy the planet, just like the hippies say now about the oil industry.

            This is what we don’t like about progressives. Every single generation comes along thinking that they know it all. That everyone before them was dumb and these new *revolutionary* thoughts are the answer. You’re not that smart. Thousands of people have thought of every last thing that you have thought of. But no, it all seems so simple and perfect to you. It is THE solution to our problems!

            Consider this: why is there such a huge push for these new technologies from that same evil government that you blame for oil? The same evil rich people are pushing for this stuff and you are all too happy to jump on the bandwagon. Every one of these huge figureheads of the green movement has been caught in corruptions and hypocrisy.

            But you are too blind to see it. To realize we have went through all this before. And the new new hippies are screaming about what the old old hippies fought for.

            How about we fix the problems with the systems we already have before moving on to systems we don’t know?

            THAT just might save the planet. But of course, that’s hard and it might actually require revolutionary thoughts.

          3. And this is why people shouldn’t be trying to advocate for things they don’t understand.

            For the exact same reason that RF energy harvesting is also not “free energy” just because it is being broadcast into your yard anyway. Enough people do it and the towers need to output more power to deliver radio to consumers.

            You are placing a load on the sun.

            I know it is hard to understand because it is not visible to you, You cannot take energy away from something and still have it whole.

            I don’t know the affect of covering the whole planet. I do know it will make the sun burn out faster just based on basic physics principles. One could argue that it would make such a negligible difference to not even matter in the grand scheme things (the sun will burn out eventually anyway.) They would probably be correct. But the cost of finding out? The sun burning out generations down the road.

            Nothing is free. Everything has a cost. It may be a cost we are willing to pay. It may even be a smaller cost than what we are already doing. But it is not as simple-minded as all these activists seem to think it is. For example, imagine the amount of energy needed to cover the planet in solar cells. How much water are we going to use building those materials? How much earth and metal? What energy source would we use to construct this in the meantime? Would that energy use be more than we would ever use in a lifetime? And we burned it all up in 20 years. What about all the other infrastructure we would need to change to accommodate and switch everything over to this new technology?

            That was my point above all else. To the activists, this is all just so simple in their minds. And that’s because they don’t know what they are talking about. It really just boils down to that.

            I don’t know the answers. I will admit to that. I am not a physics major. I couldn’t even tell you what formulas to look up for sure to figure it out. But that is why I don’t run around being an activist for either side.

            And lastly, I urge all activists to take a pause for a moment and really wonder if they are being pulled around by their nose. And to REALLY look at who is doing the pulling. Chances are there is a VERY big money reason people are pushing this. “Green” scams are everywhere as new businesses are springing up all over trying to cash in on the fad. And time after time, they are getting exposed as hypocrites and frauds.

            So before you jump on a bandwagon, you should know who is driving it.

          4. Solar panels would not make the sun burn out quicker. Your logic has been very cynical and flawed for several comments now. I will gracefully explain why your past few comments are illogical.

            The sun already expended that energy. We are not “taking” anything from it by putting up solar panels. That energy was moving away from the sun in a straight line for eternity. Physics 101.

            Your comment about electric cars making the cost of electricity to go up. That’s wrong. Supply and demand says it will go down. It’s a commodity. Economics 101

            “You know, you people are so quick to scream how we need to try this new thing when we may not realize the consequences of that new thing for hundreds of years. Instead of using the things were ALREADY know the consequences of and then working to solve that problem.”
            The electric car is the fix to the problem. Who actually thinks we’ll stick with 1 technology. Common Sense 101.

            “And this is why people shouldn’t be trying to advocate for things they don’t understand. I don’t know the answers. I will admit to that. I am not a physics major.”
            Yeah No Shit so Stop Talking…… 101

          5. The reason I am confident we will be wiped out as a species long before any of this matters is because of stupid people like you. And they are just getting dumber.

            It’s not my job to educate you. Pick up a textbook before you try to school engineers online.

            Go get ready for your job at Radio Shack. You’re late. You’ve already been warned because of your inability to count back change. Last thing we need is another reason for you to blame the evil corporations for your failure in life.

            And make sure your shirt isn’t inside out and your shoes match this time, please. I know it’s difficult, but the customers do have expectations.

          6. Maybe I was a bit harsh. I’ll give you the benefit of doubt that you are not a complete moron and suggest this scenario to you:

            You saying that solar panels don’t have any affect on the sun because the suns rays are shooting out into space anyway is like saying nothing will ever draw more current because electrons are going that way anyway. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

            A solar panel puts a load on the sun that was not there before. The particular law of physics is called the Law of the Conservation of Energy. It is a series of really complicated formulae, but it boils down to this: you cannot consume energy from something and not observe a loss in that something. The more energy you consume, the faster the potential in that something is reduced. It’s a very universal law and not one thing in the entire universe escapes this law. If you had taken physics 101, you would have been taught this. Well, hopefully. I am really beginning to question the education system in this country lately. By me saying I am not a physics major, it means that I have forgotten the actual formulas after all this time because I don’t work in the field of physics. I didn’t need to memorize them because I don’t use them every day. And honestly, I am lazy. It’s not worth the effort to go dig out the textbook, research the potential energy in the sun and the amount of energy consumed in solar panels to answer a question for some random idiot on the internet. I’d rather just lose the argument to a moron and actually go do something productive with my day.

            Anyway, I digress. What you think is actually a very common thought among people that don’t understand, indeed. Like those that think RF energy harvesting is ‘free’. But it is wrong.

            You know, the electric company has wires connected to your house anyway and surely electrons are flowing down that cable to your house anyway. So why shouldn’t you just get it for free? Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is.

            I am an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry, but in my former life while paying for college, I spent a lot of time with computers. I am reminded of taking in computers for people to help them out and fix them. Without fail, I am told they had their local ‘computer genius’ in the trailer park look at their computer and he said it was XYZ. They had absolute confidence in this computer genius, but 10 out of 10 times they were actually bringing it to me because that computer genius fucked up their computers even worse.

            The internet is both a wonderful thing and a terrible thing. Wonderful because you can practically learn anything sharing among a huge pool of smart people. But terrible because it allows people that are willfully stupid to congregate with each other and re-enforce their stupidity. Those are the ones that we engineers encounter on the internet that think they know everything. They trick other dumb people with their ‘simple speak’ like ‘Economics 101’. Sure it sounds really smart to the rest of the people in the trailer park that are even dumber than you. But it shows a very simple mind to people that actually know what they are talking about. And it is very frustrating. So, please forgive my harshness above.

            I am also reminded of a very recent situation. A coworker of mine took their laptop in to the Geek Squad to be repaired. They had it for 4 weeks and came back and told them it needed a new motherboard and hard drive. $550.

            Now, these guys that work at Geek Squad fancy themselves computer wizards. They even went to school and everything to prove it! But they are like the smartest guy in the trailer park.

            You see, in off-hand conversation with my co-worker they brought up their laptop that they were planning to toss and I said ‘let me look at it before you do that.’

            All that was wrong was that the Geek Squad had attempted to re-install windows because they were too stupid to figure out the real problem. And then they weren’t smart enough to realize that they needed drivers for the SATA AHCI during the install. And in fact, if they had spent 5 minutes looking on Dell’s website, they would have found that Dell actually even had a guide to re-installing windows on the laptop that would have told them this and how to do it.

            TL&DR: The world is filled with people that truly think they know what they are talking about. But you can always tell a bullshitter because they try too hard to simplify complicated topics. It bedazzles the dumber people and probably even convinces some that they are smart. But to those that know, you just look like a RadioShack employee.

            You are not alone, if that makes you feel any better.

          7. Justice you really fell off the apple cart with your “load on the sun.” That ball of fusion is going to keep on fusing at whatever rate it damn well pleases, solar panels or not. Someone did not turn up the sun to 105% because there are more solar panels. The unforeseen consequence that you could propose, and not sound completely simple, would be some weather effect due to the increase in solar panels bouncing sunlight back into space; something along those lines.

          8. I think you need to read about “Heat Death of the Universe” because it explains this very well. For the universe as a whole…. conservation of energy doesn’t apply. That is reserved for closed systems. Not the unlimited area of space. I understand what your saying…… you are just dead wrong about putting a load on the sun and here is why.

            Your also confusing radiation with electricity. Electricity has currents that require a circular path to flow. Radiation flows linearly outwards forever. It doesn’t return. The Earth is already one giant solar panel. The whole world is powered by the sun and an area the size of Spain absorbing photons would have a negligible effect on the sun. The Earth will die long before the sun would be effected.

            So to reiterate. If the sun puts out a billion gigawatts….it never returns. Your suggesting that somehow solar panels on earth would cause more fusion in the sun and cause it to die early. This is absurd. Solar panels might return a negligible amount of radiation through reflection, but that is not a load. A load would physically cause the sun to emit more energy. That would simply be returning energy already produced. Basically 0 at that. With your argument you could say that putting solar panels up will make the stars millions of light years burn out sooner too, but that is also absurd since the net result is basically 0

            If you can answer one question…. What exactly would the solar cell be “loading” from the sun. Tell me which particles specifically I would like to know your theory on this.

          9. I don’t even know why I’m arguing. Even if you were right(which your not). The number would be sooooo small. That it simply doesn’t matter. Your basically arguing just for the sake of arguing at this point.

            Your argument is somewhat on par with…. satellites throw the alignment of earth off so we shouldn’t launch satellites.

            Look. You can’t stop technology. So keep complaining all you like, but Solar Power is going to keep on truckin and you or anybody else is never going to stop it….. because do you know what really powers the world? Money. The Earth would stop spinning without it and this is just another form.

          10. ok. As previously noted, I am done. If you continue to argue, then it is you that are arguing for the sake of arguing.

            I’m not going to answer any more of your questions. You go figure it out.

          11. Ok I’m gonna simplify this cos I can’t believe anyone thinks solar panels actually suck energy out of the sun, or put a load on it. Any more than reservoirs put a load on the rain.

            The sun radiates light off into space and that’s the last the sun ever knows about it. Those photons could go anywhere, they’re their own free agents now.

            Suppose someone puts up a solar panel, the photons give their energy to the panel, which can then provide electricity to a load. But suppose there WASN’T a solar panel? The light would just hit the ground instead, warming it slightly. Either way, those photons die, far away from home, and the sun has long since lost any connection to them. It puts out the same amount of energy regardless. Whether we do something useful with those photons, or not.

            Or, if the Earth wasn’t in that particular part of it’s orbit, the rays would travel off through the Universe til they eventually hit something, however far. Maybe some hydrogen. Or maybe travel forever til the Universe ends.

            This isn’t an issue of conservation of energy, it’s just an issue of whether we make use of the energy of photons, or whether the energy ends up doing something useless to the human race. The energy’s the same amount either way.

          12. 099, your grade school called, something about wanting your physics pass certificate back?

            Light travels at the speed of light, funnily enough. This means there is no known mechanism by which a source can know anything about a photon. Hence the sun doesn’t know what happens to any individual photon.

            Even if you are right, & physics had missed this everything-we-know-so-far-about-space-and-light shattering fact of yours, the effect on the sun would be immeasurably small.
            If the whole surface of the earth, seas included, somehow stimulated the sun to put out 10x more power to those cells, the fact that the sun is 8 light minutes away and 1.3 million times bigger than earth should instantly tell you that the fraction of the light put out by the sun that even hits the earth is minute. As in ‘you’ll run out of room on a desk calculator’ minute. About a hundred millionth of the output hits earth. 1:10^8 or so.
            Given that, it is still enough that more sunlight energy hits the earth every hour than we humans use in a year.

            Give it up man.

          13. See, Mr Justice, all this exasperation and anger would be somewhat penile if you were actually right. The fact you’re blatantly wrong on such a simple thing just makes you look like a loony with some sort of personality disorder.

            The rain / reservoir argument is meant to be somewhat ludicrous, in tribute to your own argument’s ludicrousness and basic, simple wrongness. Although as a metaphor it’s actually accurate.

            Spend less time getting stressed and have a little think, maybe read what people are saying, nice and slowly. Failing that go look up why you’re wrong. I don’t know that it’ll be an easy thing to find an explanation on, since the truth is so utterly obvious it’s not the sort of thing any science book would take time to debunk.

            And,to answer your question, yes, really.

          1. Well maybe use something else for the very few people who live in sub-zero temperatures all year round. There’s still a massive amount to be gained for all the transport in hot and temperate and not-quite-that-cold countries.

      3. I dunno about hybrids, but I’ve got a Nissan Leaf and it’s definitely cheaper than a comparable gas car. There are tons of government subsidies, meaning we can lease the thing for around as much as a mid-high-end sedan, and we pay some $5/mo for electricity instead of $40 or more per tank of gas. Plus, it drives like a sports car!

          1. People need to buy them first, hence why nobody should be bashing early-adopters (especially not to make themselves feel “smart” because they didn’t “waste” money).

    3. – Last I looked, you could get a new pack for about $1500 through local chain parts stores (they pulled this info up accidenctally for me last time I was looking for a 12v battery). Above is likely dealer direct pricing. – They do screw you on the fact you can’t buy new cells individually, but you can pick them up in decent shape on ebay. I’ve torn the battery out of my ’01 twice now for a failed cell, and have over 250k miles on it now. Replaced cell, and topped a few off as needed with an R/C charger. Google has plenty of info to DIY. — Personally I’d have to argue they are economical, having picked the car up for a good deal(?) used, and not having had to do any serious maintenance on it in the almost 200k (miles, not kilometers) I’ve put on it.

        1. The last car I owned that passed the 200k mile mark had the following done on it while I owned it (mostly by me to save money)

          rebuilt engine
          rebuilt carburetor (several times)
          new clutch
          new clutch pedal (when the old one cracked and fell off while driving)
          new transmission
          replaced engine mounts
          replaced fan and radiator (when engine shifted forward due to broken engine mounts)
          replaced timing belt (a couple of times before the new engine)
          rebuilt valves
          replaced fuel gauge sensor
          replaced both fuel pumps
          replaced-removed-replaced-removed-replaced air injection pump
          replaced oil pump
          replaced thermostat
          new alternator (and entire electrical system)

          And that is just the drive train and does not include the things that probably needed fixing and replacing that I didn’t have time or money to deal with. Then there is the regular maintenance specific to ICEs such as oil, oil filter, spark plugs, spark plug wires, air filter, etc.

          I’d take a new battery-pack every ~100k miles instead of that any day!

          1. Full reply didn’t make it the first time:

            – Exactly, thanks! – while pulling the battery out was a pain, over that many miles, it was easily the cheapest and lowest maintenance car I’ve ever owned.
            – Even taking a pretty modest fuel savings calculation of a 30mpg car v.s. 45mpg, and avg $3 gal fuel, over 200k miles, you’re looking at saving about $7K in fuel. If you’re running 25mpg against 50mpg, you’re saving over $12k, which is more than I paid for the car in the first place.
            – Granted this takes some technical know-how to go this route, but for those that need the economics spelled out:
            ICE car over 7 years / 200K / 30mpg
            $10k car
            $2k maintenance (pretty conservative, likely higher?)
            $20k fuel
            ———- TCO $32k
            Prius over 7 years / 200k / 45mpg
            $10k car
            $500 maintenance
            $13k fuel
            ———- TCO $23.5k —- Seems to me like I saved almost ten grand with my prius over a standard 30mpg gas car, not to mention I bet my prius will have a higher 260k mile resale value than most similarly aged, mileage, and initially priced ICE cars.

    4. Yes, when you consider not only the cost of the battery pack replacement, but also the costs (tangible and intangible) of the creation of a new battery and the disposal of the old one. Heavy metals and corrosives are best dealt with by someone else’s kids on the other side of the globe, amirite?

      1. CO2 and acid rain is shared the world over. I suppose at least that’s democratic. While electrics aren’t CO2-free at point of origin, they could be.

        If our governments had any sort of spine and weren’t corrupt and dedicated to serving the rich few, then they’d be able to make laws against exporting dangerous garbage to poor countries, and actually enforce them. That’s merely a minor political glitch!

  1. THIS is why Hybrids are going to be a long time before being fully accepted. $4,500 for a new battery? When the manufacturer KNOWS it is usually just one cell that went bad. I bet they even charge a ‘core charge’ for the old battery so they can take it, replace one cell and turn around and sell it for $3500 refurbished. Or in the OPs case, fix it for absolutely nothing.

    Robbery. Maybe rape is more like it.

    1. If you thought that was bad, note that most new cars are using DCTs (Dual Clutch Transmission) and those are really expensive to fix when they break down. (Most hybrids use CVTs instead.) And unlike hybrid batteries, DCTs are quite difficult to DIY service.

      Bottom line: if you don’t want a hybrid/EV, get one of the few conventional cars with a CVT or a stick shift. Or if you really want DCT, a Volkswagen. (VW makes the best DCTs in mass market cars, but even they often have issues.)

      1. As far as I know there are no hybrids using CVTs, they take too much power to run. The Toyota uses a single planetary gear set with wheels, engine and electric motor being the three shafts. Gearing is done by varying the electric motor speed.

        The big advantage that no one mentions on the Toyota and the reason I bought one is that it gives a good automatic gearbox in a small car that does not use huge amounts of fuel to work.

          1. It isn’t a traditional CVT, it is a constant velocity drive but it doesn’t do it the normal way. The way it works is really something special and it will only work with hybrid cars. There is a really good website showing it working but I can’t find it. :)

        1. I just looked at the link you posted, and that is the most ingenious setup I’ve ever seen. I’d say the pricey battery pack is almost worth it just for the simpler transmission, and ditching the torque converter. (I’ll still stick to rowing my own though, nothing beats the fun of a manual imo.)

      2. My personal opinion… A transmission in an electrically powered car is STUPID. Before you flame me to oblivion, hear me out.

        If you have electricity driving some motor to make the car move along, there is zero reason to produce rotary motion, only to put it through a transmission before it goes on down the rotary line (however long or short the line is) before it reaches one or more wheels. Take the electrons that you have, and put them into motors directly attached to the wheels. You can do all sorts of wizard things between the electron source and the drive motors, and you don’t have to ever futz with a transmission.

        And then you may only need one very simple transmission: one that takes the [IC/diesel/wankle/gas turbine/roll-your-own squeezed-dinosaur-juice drinking rotary-producing engine (operating at whatever is its optimum efficiency)] output, and applies it to the electron generator that powers the wheels, charges the battery, and kicks the bass through the stereo. You should have only ONE speed/torque output for the squeezed-dinosaur-juice drinking rotary-producing engine, and ONE speed/torque input for the electron generator. If the speed/torque output == speed/torque input, you can even forget the transmission altogether, but if that is the case, either the input or the output design (or both) has been most likely been tweeked to let that happen.

        I say, it you are going to build an electric vehicle, there is no good reason to add any kind of mechanicals between the drive motor and the drive wheels. If appropriate consideration is given to the motor chosen to make the wheels move, you should have the best overall efficiency by doing things this way.

        1. Transmission in an EV is still necessary because electric motors won’t achieve decent efficiency over their full operating speed range. A typical motor will see poor efficiency below about 25% of its design top speed, which is why you see even top range electric cars with rather limited top speeds despite the fact that they have plenty of power to go faster. They would, if you could just change up a gear.

          Tesla originally tried to make the Roadster with a two-speed gearbox, but decided against it for cost and reliability reasons.

          1. Hm, would it not be easier to just make a car with 2 motors? A “fast” one and a “slow” one? Sure you’d need a bit of transmission to decouple them from each other, but it’d be simpler than a gearbox. Or you could even not bother decoupling them, a motor free-spinning doesn’t steal much mechanical power, though it would increase wear, or rather wouldn’t reduce wear, on the motors.

            Could you make a “dual-power” motor, with 2 sets of stator coil windings? Or several to use in combination? Using electromagnets rather than permanent magnets for the stators. Do hybrids use permanent-magnet motors? Would variable electromagnet stators allow for a whole range of power outputs, without having to PWM the motor too much? Or in conjunction with?

            I admit there might be problems with this I’m not aware of. I’d like to hear them. Even if they’re just “you don’t know much about cars”, which I’ll take.

          2. A simple transmission minimizes gear losses. If you consider that each gear contact or bearing you add to the drivetrain reduces your efficiency by 2% you’ll quickly see that double motors and the differentials to connect multiple motors to one shaft aren’t exactly an efficient solution.

            A simple manual two-speed gearbox is probably the most efficient transmission solution you could have.

            As for building motors with switchable poles; the curren trend is to use high-speed motors because they are small and light, and obtain great power and efficiency operating at high frequency. They’re designed to operate in the 10-20 kRPM range instead of 2000-3000 RPM like traditional AC/DC traction motors. There’s not really any room in them for tricks like field coil switching, but you could ask Mr. Dyson if he has anything up his sleeve.

          3. Worth noting that the ‘single speed’ system in a Tesla still gets up to 155mph just fine. (Currently capped at 130mph without software update)
            A second gear just wouldn’t get used in real life.

        2. “there is no good reason to add any kind of mechanicals between the drive motor and the drive wheels”

          In-wheel motors have more mass and have crappy power/torque/speed/efficiency because of size, weight, sealing and cooling considerations.

          Moving the motor off the suspension and inside the chassis makes for a smoother ride and gives you more of everything, at the expense of needing at least one reduction gear and some sort of U-joint.

          1. Locomotives don’t run on batteries, so they don’t care that their low speed efficiency is very close to zero. They’re not spending their time in stop & go traffic anyhow.

            An electric car however does have to care, because you lose up to a third of your range at low speeds simply because the motor is running at a non-optimal range of speeds.

          1. The “up to” efficiency of 94-98% only applies at the design top speed.

            If the motor is designed to run 100 mph at its rated top speed, the efficiency at 30-40 mph is more like 60-70% and with the lack of efficient cooling available in a wheel hub (can’t run cooling fluid hoses), the large amounts of waste heat puts a practical limit on how much power you can run to the motors.

            The unsprung mass problem is very much not exaggerated, because a significant amount of energy is wasted on in the suspension system to stop the heavy wheels from bouncing around, to keep the chassis from shaking your face out. That energy ultimately comes out of the battery, further demolishing your system efficiency by increasing the effective rolling resistance against the road.

        3. You do understand why transmissions exist on gasoline engine cars, correct? Gasoline engines cant reliably operate at high rpms. Linkages fail, heat builds up quickly, lots of bad things. Also, it requires less fuel to push the vehicle as torque requirement lowers. Enter the electric motor. Would it make sense to keep a motor spinning at high rpm? It does the same thing–increases heat and friction, which increases the wear on the motor. Honestly, when you spend the money on a hybrid vehicle, you pay a premium. I wouldn’t want to have to spend more on service costs and the manufacturer definitely doesn’t want to have to keep replacing brushes or motors constantly. A transmission is an obvious solution that helps reduce the operating speed while maintaining power to the wheels. There aren’t as many losses to the system, either. I know it sounds logical to just directly drive the wheels, but this isn’t an arduino RC toy car. These things move very quickly and a matching motor would require immense power to develop the torque, and they typically don’t do well at higher rpm.

          1. dude your way off here, Internal Combustion Engines (gasoline, Diesel, Propane, Vegetable Oil, Wood gas) run at higher speeds than you wheels turn. You transmission reduces the speed, Until you hit over drive and then its not really gearing it up that much. They cannot produce the necessary torque at low speeds thus the reasons for torque converters and gearing, You have to watch this its awesome http://hackaday.com/2012/12/31/retrotechtacular-fluid-coupling/ And this one http://hackaday.com/2014/07/22/retrotechtacular-were-gonna-have-manual-transmissions-the-way-my-old-man-told-me/

          2. The efficiency of an electric motor at 0 RPM is exactly 0%

            Think about it. You have torque, but without movement you only have a static moment and no work is being done, while electricity is constantly running through the motor and wasting energy, therefore zero efficiency.

            When the motor starts to pick up speed, it increases in efficiency. The faster it turns, the closer to 100% you get. That’s why you would want a transmission even in an electric car to keep the motor speed always as high as possible.

        4. I think the point here is that the main drive motor is connected (via a differential of course) to the drive wheels. The HSD is connecting the ICE to the main drive motor.
          The HSD is an ingenious way to get the mechanical efficiencies of a gearbox to apply the power of the ICE to the drive system.

        5. Oh but, there is: The torque produced by the motor is proportional to the current flowing in the windings. The losses are proportional to the current squared – which means that the losses can get very high when high torque is needed.

          A gearbox that halve the torque required at the motor shaft, will cut the losses by a factor of 4 and make everything lighter as well (cooling fins, cabling, transistors). Since the electrical motor doesn’t have the finicky characteristics of the ICE, the gearbox can be a simple variometric type – this have low losses and low weight too.

          In power electronics, the dimensioning and therefore the cost is determined by the peak values – the chips are all too small to rely on thermal averaging – the cost of ideological purity can become high when we have to move to a higher-current packaging or the transistors start to fail from thermal cycling. The electrical trains have gearboxes for the same reasons: Efficiency and Design Optimisation.

  2. I did this with my Prius 3 or 4 years ago. In my case Totyota had done a recall on these Prii because of a tendency for the cells to leak. This remedial fix was some crappy glue round the terminals that apparently went conductive after some years and gave an earth fault on the battery. I discovered all that as I went through trying to fix it. My experience with Toyota themselves was pretty similar “oh yes, battery knackered, gimme your life savings. As they had caused the fault I decided that they should at least pay my time fixing it, that got me absolutely nowhere apart from tearing my own hair out and annoying the neighbours with the expletives. I gave uo trying eventually, the car was fine and works perfectly until last August when my 90 year old dad crashed it.

      1. Insurance job? It doesn’t look suspicious at all, “90 year old crashes car”. If his car needed crashing, that’s the right way of doing it.

        Either that, or he needed to go somewhere.

  3. $10 worth of supplies, a few hundred dollars worth of labor (if he gets paid what electricians make around here) and many thousands of dollars worth of education.

    This isn’t to say that the car companies are being entirely honest, but I imagine that rebuilding packs and then covering them under warranty would be hard for them to do profitably. As for cost savings, well. Our prius gets better than twice the mileage of our previous car, so at 12K miles a year we’re spending about $900 a year in gas instead of $2000 We’re at about 75K miles with minimal problems. If a battery last 5 years it’s probably paid for itself, and most last longer. (Yeah, I know we could get a comparable mileage non-hybrid, but then again if we were buying now we could get a plugin hybrid and probably spend about $100-200 a year for gas.)

    1. This. So much this. Equipment, knowledge, time and experience are not worth $0. There’s also opportunity cost. It makes it much less of a dramatic headline though. “I fixed my $4500 car battery for under $10” is a great attention grabbing headline *looks glaringly at Hackaday* but come on.

      1. A lay person with mechanical skills could fix this same issue the same way. Hence, $10 is a realistic statement. Had the $10 fix required special hardware and/or knowledge to affect, I would accept your comment much easier.

        1. A lay person with mechanical skills could electrocute themselves trying to fix this same issue the same way. The author even mentions this. High voltage DC is *dangerous*, and requires special hardware and knowledge to handle safely.

          1. “I guess they expect that the average person would know how to safely work on mains power?”

            What they sell to anyone has no bearing on this issue. Buying any of the stuff doesn’t require a lisence, and neither does opening a Prius battery, yet not just anybody should be messing with mains power wiring or hybrid car batteries – as dictated by common sense.

          2. Is there a fuse box on a hybrid battery pack where I can turn off the power stored in the battery in case I accidentally create a short across terminals? No? Then you can’t really compare it to working on mains power …

          3. The design of the battery make it very difficult to electrocute anything. You cannot open the battery up without removing the breaker and that breaker isolates the battery in the middle so that there is a maximum of just over 100 volts (depending on the model) on each pack. It is not unknown for 100 volts or so to be fatal but it is very rare and to get over that voltage you would have to have two separate mishaps at either end of the battery at the same time. Whatever you think about hybrids you cannot deny that Toyota seem to have thought about everything when designing this car drive system.

        2. A lay person with a step by step guide of exactly how to perform it, rudimentary understandings of high voltage DC hazards and a few minimum required safety tools and a lot of patience, maybe. Even lifting battery pack is not trivial or easy. If it was all laid out in advance. When this person set about to fix it, they had only a rudimentary idea of what possible problems this could be and had to figure it out on their own, both from a diagnosing problem and an implantation of solution perspective.

        1. +1 The same argument about investment of education and/or time and tools could be made about most every story ever written here, and is irrelevant as far as I care. ‘free time’ is literally free time.

      2. It’s not unreasonable, when asked how much it cost to fix something, to give the amount of cash you had to give for it. If we’re including a man’s own labour, you may as well include the food it took to bring him to adulthood, cost of advancing society up til the invention of the internal combustion engine, etc… You can take implied expenses as far as you like. If you figure the guy didn’t have any other lucrative thing to do, then you’re talking the value of the time he’d spend otherwise sat watching TV.

      3. A multimeter is not expensive equipment. A resistive coil used to test battery cells is not expensive equipment. Vinegar is not some fancy chemical. All the techniques he had could be looked up on Youtube, as he did.

    2. how come the US of A doesnt get small (2 liter or less) diesel cars? most turn better fuel economy than a shitty prius and you dont have to worry about the battery, admittidly dpfs, dmfs, turbos, injectors etc are expensive but nothing like 4.5k!

      1. They are very sensitive to fuel quality, not to mention that when “cleaning” (proper term should be burning the crap off) the particulate filter, fuel consumption goes through the roof, this is NEVER accounted for in the tests…
        Also, in the US of A diesel actually cost noticeably more per volume, not less like here in socialist Europe, so you’d be better off with something like Fords Ecoboost and other downsized gas engines…

        p.s. you forgot the most expensive component that a modern common-rail diesel has and it tends to fail – the injector pump…2k easy for a new one + work…

        1. I dont forget that, i own and run a garage lol. and recon pumps are substancially less than 2k, infact 2k would be a pump, 4 injectors, and the entire fuel system flushing. In the UK diesel is dearer than petrol, i have a 1.4 tdci fiesta which gets over 100 miles more per tank than my partners 1.25 petrol fiesta. The diesel works out cheper to run. (not to mention in the UK the yearly road tax for the diesel is £30 and for the petrol is £120odd) my 530d gets close to the same mpg as her fiesta, thats a 1.7 tonne 250odd hp saloon.

          I did a forced particulate regen just yesterday on a BMW mini, cruising at around 70mph in 4th, it averaged 55mpg. Probably gets about 60mpg on the same circumstance when not regenerating. Not particularly excessive. The poor fuel consumption some folk will notice comes from a car trying to force a regen when the engines cold becuase the owner never gets the engine up to temp. I think particulate filters are the devils work, but driven right, with good fuel, and low saps engine oil they dont usually present any issues.

          I think the USA would really benefit from euro diesels, Never understood why they jumped on prius’ but never seemed to get the good diesels, i meen a golf tdi or focus 1.6 tdci both give better mpg and no 4k battery bills, not to mention the environmental impact of manufacturing and subsequently recycling dud batterys.

          1. “I think the USA would really benefit from euro diesels, Never understood why they jumped on prius’ but never seemed to get the good diesels”

            Don’t forget that US and UK gallons don’t match. One is 3.78 liters and the other is 4.54 liters. That means the UK mileage figures are 20% inflated in comparison.

            55 MPG UK is about 45 MPG US, which is about exactly what the Prius gets on the road. There’s really no significant difference, except for the fact that a lot of European cars are tiny hatchbacks with tiny engines, which allows them to get ridiculous mileage.

          2. Oh, and also there’s 10% more energy per gallon in diesel than in petrol, even more so now thanks to the new EU rules that force 10% ethanol or other substitute in, so that pretty much covers the difference in mileage.

            And, the whole diesels being more enviromentally friendly is plain bullcrap. Everyone knows they cheat with the emissions tests left right and center, and in practical driving you get soot all over the place from cold engines and cold catalysators. That would spell like a huge smog issue in large US cities.

            Not to mention the perennial problem of fuel gelling up and blocking your filters every time the weather goes below freezing, because you still got leftover summer quality diesel in the tank.

          3. My understanding is that the US really really hates cars that produce CO2, but have far less issue with NOx’s. The reason i’ve been given for the differance is that Europe has many old things, where acid rain would ruin them, and since the US has almost nothing over 100 years who cares about acid rain. Also many still think of the 1960’s buicks and the like when they hear diesel, and think of glow plugs, black soot, loud engines, and poor operation in the “cold”.

            I agree with you. I’d like a euro diesel, the closest i can get is a a VW TDI, but they want a fairly large premium for them, and around here in MN, USA, there don’t seem to be many reasonable used ones on the market.

          4. Do not put the words diesel and eco-anything-positive in one sentence…without a complicated, expensive and sensitive urea injection system (Ad-blue), they are much worse on emissions, especially NOx…
            The fuel quality could also be a problem, Ausies seem to have a constant fuel quality problem, many common rail diesels just going dead because at that pressure even the tinyest of particles will eat the injectors…

            The 4k battery problem is caused by the manufacturer being a dick, not by the tech. Hybrids come into play once you can charge the pack from the wall and want to do short trips (shopping, short commute, pick up kids from school etc…), then even the tiny diesels simply have no chance…if were talking about the lower part of the states, using your own photovoltaic panels might make it even more interesting…
            As a bonus, you can use the car to power the house in case something goes FUBAR :D

            btw are we talking about a modern, 1,5k+ bar pump with according injectors or something whimpier?

            p.s. the fun will begin once greenies manage to push legislation that diesels can’t enter the inner part of big cities (or at least have to pay a massive tax to be allowed to enter) :P

          5. Yeah.. you’ll get a bunch of angry comments from petrol-heads that attak anything thats not gas centric. You are right though we should do more diesel here in the states. They work, they’re reliable, and they’re clean. Yes clean. You keep them up on they’re maintenance and run them at temp you get a clean burning engine.

            You can’t sell deisels as the next new thing though and that was the problem. People here want the next new technology, not the old technology that does everything better. Sad but true.

          6. ” You keep them up on they’re maintenance and run them at temp you get a clean burning engine.”

            The problem is that in Europe, you have a yearly MOT or equivalent inspections. In the US, in several states it may be 5 years to never to take an emissions test – and in the mean while nobody cares how much soot you’re pushing up in the air.

        2. and if the pump fails it usually takes the injectors with it!!!
          the injectors can go for more then 500$ USD a-piece.

          when they fail due to fuel pump chewing itself up,
          you usually get more then one failure.

          ask the australians, they get crappy diesel.

      2. I would love to have some more small and medium diesel options in the US. But with a late 90’s TDI Jetta running around 3k-7k depending on mileage and getting around 50mpg. I can buy a small (<2L) gas engine for under $1000 and get around 40mpg which at the price point of gasoline vs diesel is less dollars per mile than the TDI.

      3. We drive a 1979 VW Rabbit diesel, 50-55 (US) MPG and apparently the whole car cost less than a hybrid battery! Not fast but with a 5-speed upgrade it’ll cruise at 75 MPH all day. We like it, it’s old and goofy and you can disassemble the whole car with a Craftsman set and a few special tools.

      4. However, the new petrol engines are really good. If I was buying a car today, I would probably go for a petrol, maybe even a hybrid (I am not quite ready for an electrical as my main car yet – the pricing seems to confiscate most of the alleged savings).

        The small and efficient HDI-diesel’s tends to be utterly solid and reliable until they fail catastrophically, the fuel pump – for example – is forged from diamond mined by aliens from the core of dead stars, at least that is what the price says.

        There is not much “slack” with respect to service intervals and maintenance in the HDI engines. Many American motorists swear by regular oil changes done by places like JiffyLube – this practice can quickly cost a new engine.

        Petrol engines are more forgiving, I Think.

    3. If it is your career you can’t add education costs. And if he had $10,000 and bought a battery, he would only have $5500. But he has $9990. Nobody pays you for free time, that’s the difference. Free time won’t pay your bills.

    4. So just like when I change my own oil for $20 instead of the $65 that a decent quick lube place will charge. Yes its $65 for 4.5 quarts of synthetic and a basic oil change. Yes I go to the store and buy the full synthetic oil and a filter for $20 when I find them on sale. Its free to me. I didn’t have to go to ASE school to do it, and my computer science degree doesnt make it cost more. Its free.

  4. Interesting read http://goo.gl/umUzLM $1,350 “core credit” is only given to Prius owner but not Camry or Highlander hybird owner…

    OTOH, Android OBD II app (Torque) with pruis plugin, one can read HV Battery Block 1-14 Voltage to see if any blocks maybe failing…

    Side note, it also read 3 temp sensors in the pack, SOC and fan speed…

  5. If there will be enough demand, there will be repair shops that deal with this kind of situations. Where I live – eastern Europe, hardly any part is replaced with fresh replacement part from the manufacturer. Instead, it is either a (lower quality) replacement part from some other vendor, or a part from a crashed car (for example). Sure, there is no warranty or anything, but in most cases it works and is cheaper by magnitude.
    We are just used to situations when stuff breaks down and there’s no warranty and there’s no money to pay for original manufacturer-backed repairs. You just have to find another way. Hack, if you will.
    That’s why I’m surprised about the comments calling Toyota robbers – if you buy second hand car, it will break down. It won’t have warranty in most cases. Free or little cost centralized battery repair/replacement service would be a major pain for Toyota, so there’s the price. If engine breaks down, do you take it to Toyota dealer? No, just to a guy who knows Toyotas. Why would (in future) the situation with batteries be different?

    1. I agree with you

      Capitalism rules, if repair shops figure out better and cheaper ways to fix cars, they will do it.

      For example I own a fancy sports car and it really costs no more to fix than a plain old ford (I had one of those too) because the shop has figured out how to fix them for the same price as a ford.

    1. High voltage AND high currents, the pack can deliver several tens of kW :P
      High voltage traction batteries are no toys, even 72V ones can melt spanners if they are dropped where they shouldn’t be :P

      1. In reference to the safety of working on these batteries – why can’t someone put a LED on each cell that shows the status of an internal relay – the relay inside each cell would disconnect power to the output terminals mounted on each cell. Each individual cell could then be turned off internally so someone could service/replace cells safely.

        1. What if the LED or relay was broken or jammed, either disconnecting without a reason or not when needed?

          Just another point of failure to serve a situation that most battery packs never go through.

  6. The only people spending $4500 on a new battery are folks who don’t know any better and have never heard of Google. You can buy a new batter pack for most vehicles for anywhere between $1500 and $1800, some are more expensive. There are several specialty shops now that can test the battery pack and replace any bad cells for a couple hundred bucks. When I bought my 03 civic hybrid new they told me the cost was around $8000 and it’s gone down every year since. Even the dealer where I live doesn’t charge $4500.

  7. I think the real value here is in the info being shared. This could save many people like you or me lots in the future. Even if you don’t have the skills to fix it yourself, you can engage someone who has and still save a lot of $
    I thank you for sharing

      1. I’m imagining a single light, where color indicates problem type and brightness the severity.

        If it detects you driving poorly enough it comes on at max brightness, vaporizing you instantly.

  8. Why does Toyota try to sell a new battery? Greed? No….

    It is a 3, or 5, year old (or more?) battery pack with a significant charge/discharge history. As many people here know, Lion cells don’t give a lot of warning before failure, and it isn’t practical to tear the thing down, identify corrosion as the issue, clean everything, and reassemble, with the risk that it will be back in a month with bad cells. So, they would need to test each cell, replace any questionable ones, and then not give a good warrantee since the other originals are the same age and may not yet be ready to let go, but will be in a month. In other words, do a full rebuild.

    An individual can do this economically. Pay the shop to, and…..

    At this point it appears that some of the hybrids, like the Prius, do pay off in a few years, all costs considered, for many driving styles. Others never will, as the added purchase cost, or reliability issues, or both, eat any fuel savings, and in a few cases, there are no savings to begin with.

    I don’t drive a hybrid. When I last bought in 2003 (and for most of the time since) I had need of a truck. I bought the smallest, most economical available, and here isn’t really anything comparable in size now in the US. I would love it if there were a hybrid option in small trucks that would pay off, but there isn’t right now…

    1. People are greedy. Businesses are not greedy. A business will do whatever is in the best financial interest for them, period. To make maximum money. That is what a business, especially a business with shareholders, does. If that means milking the consumer, then so be it. Until they can’t get away with it and it is no longer in their best financial interest. With that nuance out of the way, I am fairly certain that many owners would be perfectly fine with replacing just the one cell and waiting for the rest to go bad instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not as if those good cells just go to heaven. I can guarantee they are tested, reconditioned and sold to an aftermarket after they are removed from your car and you bought that $4500 battery.

      So they got $4500 from you for a new battery, and who knows what for the used good cells. Given the fact that they will charge you a hefty core charge if you want to keep that battery, I would say they are still pretty valuable to the company. Greedy? No. People are greedy. Businesses are made to make money. As long as people are willing to trade their money for the service, there is really nothing evil going on there.

      1. Built-in obsolescence is an example of a greedy business practice. It doesn’t matter where the greed originates, the greed is powerful enough to carry through to corrupt and influence decisions, in business or any other aspect of your life..

        1. Built-in obsolescence is mostly a result of a market reality where the majority of consumers will throw the product away after a set time anyways, because there’s something newer or fancier around, or they just won’t spend the money on necessary repairs when it costs nearly as much as a new product.

          When the product doesn’t need to last because the customers won’t actually care, the planned “obsolence” is simply a result of manufacturing optimizations.

          When a product actually -needs- to last, a company that deliberately makes one to break will quickly lose their customers.

        2. I assume you mean products failing after warranty. I might be wrong. But if you work as an engineer in any company that produces products, go talk to your reliability department. Warranties are actually calculated based on predictive failure analysis. Essentially the manufacturer determines the most likely point at which the unit will fail and be uneconomical to repair. And then they guarantee the unit for that long.

          It might sound evil to a lay person, but EVERYTHING eventually fails. The company is just making a wise business decision to support that product up to that point because if it fails prior to that, it is most likely due to some unusual defect.

          It looks evil because this has gotten to be very accurate with advances in computer models and simulations. In my company, they literally import an entire BOM and run a predictive analysis on every single part. This is done very early in the design phase actually and that information is taken back to engineering to find ways to make that last even longer.

          I am an engineer, so the work the reliability group does looks like magic to me. But we were required to take basic training with the team to understand it and were taught the tools enough to run some very basic simulations. I can attest to how accurate these systems really are. It can even calculate the confidence level of its own analysis and field data is fed back into the system on an on-going basis to increase the level of confidence. This data is then fed into the next design, and so on.

          Obviously for the general consumer goods, good enough is good enough and that is where they will stop. Otherwise, you will pay more your products to pay for that extra design effort. Which is why (in general) more reliable products cost more.

          And of course we never talk about those products that manage to live far longer than the warranty or even the normal predicted life. All we hear is how companies are evil.

          A lesson to take from this is that the longer the warranty, the more effort the company put in to ensure that your product will last. Because companies are not stupid enough to lose their shirt on warranties.

          If you ever produce something for someone else or provide a service to someone else, you will quickly understand the necessity to be very accurate in your warranties or you will go broke. Of course, when repairs cost very little because the product is very simple (or even just so cheap for you that you can just replace it easily and eat the occasional cost) you could offer lifetime warranties.

      2. I doubt that the OEM bothers with return batteries – it is more likely that they sell them off in bulk to someone who’s business it is to recondition them and sell them as an “off-brand” replacement. The same as with gearboxes, turbos, generators, engines even.

        For an industrial manufacturer it is simply *a lot* faster and much, much cheaper to assemble something from new than it is to disassemble an old assembly, service it, put it back together – now with irregularities added by the disassembly and wear & tear – and test it, adding a warranty on top. The initial assembly is highly automated and efficient, the disassembly has complications, like charged cells, maybe one or two bad ones are deformed and not easy to extract, fasteners – glue, rivets and screws. It is a different set-up.

        1. “I doubt that the OEM bothers with return batteries – it is more likely that they sell them off in bulk to someone who’s business it is to recondition them and sell them as an “off-brand” replacement. ”

          Which is pretty much what I just said. That is what “aftermarket” means.

    2. Toyota’s batteries are NiMH, not Lithium. The 2015 or ’16 models are to have lithium batteries.

      And for a good reason. Lithium doesn’t really have the shelf-life. The current generation lithium batteries self-destruct in about 8 years max just sitting there unused. Even Tesla expects their batteries to give in after 8 years.

      That’s the reason why the first generation Chevrolet Volt had to over-provision its lithium-ion battery by as much as 50% to make it work for the expected life of the car.

      1. I stand corrected on the battery technology. NiMH is a little better than Lion in failure mode, but the rest of my economic argument stands. The labor and time to identify bad cells and replace them, the replacement cost for the cells, etc, makes it economically unfeasable other than as a full rebuild.

        Figure a full day labor ($1000 at a dealer in the northeast), plus shop overhead (roughly $500), plus the cost of even a 30 day warrantee, not counting parts and materials (new cells, primarily), $2000 or so, for a battery that is likely to need similar service again soon.

        Or $4500 for one built more economically in a specialty shop that does nothing else.

        Same as buying an alternator, water pump, or oil pump for any engine. Not worth the time to diagnose and repair. Core it against a rebuilt.

        1. And yet the guy in this article did it for himself… It doesn’t necessarily go that when one cell dies, the others are on their way out. If this were some $200 part you’d probably be right. But this guy did it, and he had to diagnose the problem by hand.

          As has been mentioned, the Toyotas send battery pack information over the OBD-II bus, narrowing down which block of cells has the problem. So you go straight to that, and if you like, replace the whole block to save time, then diagnose and salvage the block you’ve removed later. Or just replace the right cell. Diagnosing a dead cell isn’t hard, a coil and a meter. Not expensive equipment, ANY shop will at least have a multimeter, and a coil isn’t expensive. If you know which block of cells, it’s (in context) easy. Even without knowing, a bit of elimination would tell you.

          The heavy lifting is probably the hardest part, garages have winches. Yes, there’s electrical precautions, but garages already know not to short out 12v lead-acids, they’re dangerous enough when you do that. A simple safety diagram will do.

          If this guy can do his repair AT HOME, and with NO IDEA what was wrong at the start, a skilled tradesman in a workshop full of tools will have no problem. Whatever they charge for their time, it’s easier than taking some transmission or fuel injection system to bits.

          1. One of the hats I wear deals with these issues directly, from the $50 part to the several hundred thousand dollar or multi-million dollar assembly. The economics scale. Labor cost being what it is, and liability being what it is (warrantee is liability. It is a probabilistic liability, but liability all the same, when amortized over all units), replacement with rebuilt or new is the appropriate choice for the shop. They can NOT make money repairing the parts in general.

            When I hear about `part swapper’ mechanics, I always win the argument. `He swapped the alternator rather than fix it’. The fix would be brushes. So I say `you want him to swap some of the worn parts, but leave others to fail’. Huh? swapping brushes is parts swapping. What about the bearings? Are they failing? It is a common reason for brush failure. You want to drive out of the shop with new brushes only to have the alternator fail 50 Km down the road because the bearing were the root cause? Nope.

            The question is where to draw the line. Modern designs (since the 1970’s or so) draw a clear line around the component or sub-assembly that it is economical to deal with. For an individual at home, with a different fixed and marginal cost structure than a commercial enterprise, the lines are different. For an individual willing to take a risk of reduced performance or failure in the field, again, the lines are different. I have made many choices that conflict with those that a commercial entity would make with my own gear, as I may value my time as enjoyable hobby rather than at a commercial rate.

            `A skilled tradesman’ is getting paid, and is NOT going to risk her reputation, or her businesses reputation, of the minimum to make it work for now. Those in the trades that DO are not skilled, in my experience, and often, the work^h^h^h^hjob they do leads to greater cost in the short term, as well as damage to equipment and injury.

            I stand on my initial statements, and can give you as much real world evidence as you want that it does not make practical or economic sense for the business , OR for the customer, to diagnose and `repair’ the pack rather than do a full rebuild.

            Disclaimer: I, and the company I work for, have made a lot of income over that last 30 years from people that don’t understand this, in several cases doing the same job multiple times because the customer would not accept that doing it right once is cheaper than doing it every two months forever. One repair has been done to customer spec roughly 20 to 25 times since the summer of 2010. If the customer had let us do the job the way we recommended the first time, for about 25% more than it cost, it would never have been needed again.

  9. It’s nice to know that even in the realm of electric cars that there is reward available to those who are still willing to dig into something they are unfamiliar with using the knowledge they have to further their knowledge in new areas and maybe save a little money doing so.
    I have friends whos first reaction to something breaking is calling a repair guy, mine is to dig into it as far as I can to see if I can fix it myself first. Articles like this are really great at affirming that action and encourage me to continue to go deeper into the general knowledge of all things.

    1. My bet on the actual cure is on simply rebooting the battery management system by the removal of the battery pack.

      The tiny bit of corrosion on the bus bars probably had nothing to do with it.

  10. Once I read about a fix for cordless tool battery packs, where you’d bust it apart and check for individual dead cells. The idea is that the whole pack isn’t dead, there are just one or two crap cells that prevent the whole thing from providing enough juice.

    Anyway, when I tried it, I found out that it wasn’t just one rogue cell – essentially ALL the cells were dead in my pack. So much for that particular failure mode… It happens in some rare cases that one cell brings down the whole thing, but most of the time they all wear evenly and die en masse. Quality control isn’t perfect, but it is good enough to ensure they are all reasonably functional together.

    Back to the topic at hand: I was happy for this guy that the fix was successful. When he started in on testing individual cells for replacement, I thought “here we go, he’ll replace one and it’ll work again, but it’s going to be whack-a-mole for two years as the rest quickly give out in succession”

  11. had same issue with e bike pack. in my case one block of 4 cells went internally short and burned out the controller. unfortunately three other blocks of nickel manganese are below 2v so it is a write off sadly.

  12. Gonna let the torque vs revs guys duke it out above, but wanted to give a kudos to scoodi for getting in there and fixing it. Probably braver than me as far as taking the battery out but I love the fact that a little corrosion can kill it so bad and fix it so good. I would have also been interested to see what a complete power drain cycling would have produced- was the car maybe in a cycle lock like other electronics I have repaired, where a smoothing cap magically holds enough juice to keep everything in error mode, until you throw it in the parts bin and it drains for a year until you come back to it and plug it in and whoosh, works great like just out of the box. I love that.

  13. I see this as a turning point in hybrid technology: soon, the lore to fix these cells will become a less-intimidating shadetree knowledge. The current generation of used hybrids is more attractive now. I do wonder what happens when somewhere down the road, Bubba drains the final beer in his Super Bowl Case, splits the sleeve on his failing hybrid battery and his widow finds him reduced to Lil’Smokies across the exposed pack. Will that become an excuse for the battery manufacturers to put DRM blocks in place to roach the customer’s battery when they try to repair it, because *safety* and *liability* (cue the six-figure Borg from Corporate pulling his best “Concerned Face” as explains this, inwardly rejoicing about impending up-spike in battery sales). The right to repair should remain with the purchaser, at his own risk.

    1. where were you to talk about exploding air bags that kill mechanics? what about electric steering systems that drive you into the ditch? gosh and what about that sulfuric acid in old fashioned batteries? luddites like you were complaining about automatic chokes and electric starters. maybe it might occur to you that batteries are not the only dangerous technology in cars and mechanics etc have been dealing with this all alon?

    2. “The right to repair should remain with the purchaser, at his own risk.”

      Yeah forget about the risks to others from botched repair jobs

      If you screw up your brake job and smash into someone else’s car, hey too bad!

      1. If your car’s not mechanically safe, then it’s illegal to drive it on public roads. That’s already the law. Only so much you can do otherwise. Can you IMAGINE what it’d be like if only companies were allowed to repair the stuff they made? There’d be piles of last-year’s cars, ten miles high. Repair fees would be 98% of a replacement car’s value, just to get them to look at it. Capitalism’s a terrible thing, and individual rights are all we have to protect us from it!

        1. In fact I can imagine a new Steam age. The software, not the gas. If your car can’t get a valid session key, the steering locks up and the power goes off. Your car won’t work if you try sell it to someone else. Every turn you make and switch you flick will be reported to some mysterious entity who goes through your garbage each night to work out what ads to play over the car’s radio. And if Wal-Mart have a sale on, you’re going there whether you like it or not.

        2. Green, that is exactly how it works in Germany. There, you have to get a qualified person to do it, or at least check and sign it off, or else.
          And they have the strongest economy in Europe even after re-merging east and west!

          1. In the UK we have the MOT test, where a qualified mechanic (with a specific certification in MOT tests) checks the various parts of the car to see they’re up to scratch. But anyone’s allowed to fix your car. It’s just your responsibility to make sure it’s roadworthy and safe. If it’s not, you’re punished. And then I suppose you’re free to chase after the guy who “fixed” it with a tyre iron.

    3. I think even the Borg would appreciate what this man has done. However, they would be shaking their optical sensors upon viewing the ruthless efficiency and relentless coldness that most corporations operate by. “Resistance is futile.” “We’re forcefully expiring the warranty on all of your parts.” “FUUUCCCKKK!!!!”

  14. Re. 3rd party repair jobs.
    Most if not all indepedent garages have insurance but they rely on the chances of a claim being very low indeed.
    Things like brake discs and pads usually are relatively simple, people driving around with nearly worn through brakes/tyres/etc is far more of a risk than the chances of someone’s repair job failing.
    Typical failure modes are usually the pad rubbing which is audibly obvious and really easy to detect with a simple microphone next to each wheel.

    I actually looked into making a diagnostic system for my car a while back that would include brake health and tyre health feedback (handy for the dreaded foreign object in the tyre) as well as failed lights ($$$!) and parameters like battery voltage, and logging engine temperature over time to detect a pending failure before something expensive happens.

    1. That’d be really interesting, and the sort of thing an Atmel AVR-based microcontroller system with standardised inputs and outputs might be good to use for. You’d need a few special parts like a thermocouple. Or you could try reading stuff off the OBD-II. Personally that’d scare me, I’d probably have a simple network of my own separate from it. Maybe I2C. I’m a smart chap but I wouldn’t risk my life on a soldering job I’d done.

      This could actually save you money by detecting problems before they become bad enough to make themselves known. There might be things you could diagnose with a mic, would mounting it on a stable part of the chassis, near the wheels, be good enough? There’s dozens of things you could do with this, sounds really interesting and useful, and you can’t say that about everything.

      Maybe OBD-II would be OK using a commercial Bluetooth unit. Then nothing of yours is connected in a way that can go wrong.

  15. This type of experience for a normal user is why it will take a long time for electric to catch on. What would be a pricey fix. Hopefully in the near future these battery packs are constructed in such a way that they can easily be services and diagnosed. Then any tech could plug in a tester and get some bad connection/bad cell results. At least then it would just be some labour and a minor rebuild cost instead of thinking of it as a replaceable black box part.

  16. There’s an issue of bad design here. What competent engineer would use copper bus bars on a vehicle? Aluminium is a much better choice all araound. It’s lighter and cheaper, even accounting for the the greater thickness needed for the same conductivity. Use a decent alloy, and it won’t have the corrosion issue either.

    1. Um….no.

      Copper is generally a much better choice in a vehicle for a number of reasons.

      Copper is less susceptible to fatigue failures from vibration.
      Copper is less susceptible to failure at connections due to cold flow.
      Copper is less susceptible to corrosion that damages connection integrity, leading to high resistance and overheating and the associated consequences. (Al alloys are much more reactive with oxygen and Al oxide is a better insulator as it grows than Cu oxide)

      Aluminum alloys other than pure aluminum do not appreciably improve these properties without the expense of greatly diminished conductivity, leading to a need to increase cross section more than for pure Al, and increase weight, and increase the size and weight of connection hardware, etc.

      In a stationary application, the risk of fatigue from vibration is much lower, greatly reduced risk of cold flow from working the connections, weight and size are likely to be less of an issue, and there is generally better ability to manage environmental conditions that lead to corrosion.

  17. That is a great job done well. Thumbs up for the owner. Thumbs down for Toyota. They should recall their battery and give him for finding a simple solution to save Toyota customer thousands.

    1. Fat chance of that. When I mended mine I reported the problem of the glue being conductive to them and all I got was a lecture on how dangerous it was to mess with such things. I have been designing stuff to connect to electricity networks for 20 years for voltages up to 70kV and they think to lecture me on such piddling things. Pissed me off it did. :)

  18. I bet a LOT of companies were waiting to charge a lot of money for replacement batteries, or to upsell people on new cars. This article could put a serious crimp in that business plan! Now to scrounge Craigslist for dirt cheap hybrids that may have the same simple issue :)

  19. One thing I wanted to point out. Correct me if I am wrong here. However a comparable DIESEL powered car has similar range and efficiency to a HYBRID. Without the problems down the road. So how is a electric motor 99% efficient when a hybrid with similar power curve gets similar mileage with a tractor engine under the hood instead of a bunch of toxic lithium. And before we get into the pissing war over electric. Sorry, all those batteries will have to be disposed in a responsible manner, most cannot be recycled properly. Leaving us with concentrated heaps of toxicity. Mines that pull out the raw materials needed for modern batteries have large areas where even grass does not grow…. Something that didn’t even happen in Chernobyl…… I agree, we need to make current transportation more efficient, unfortunately personal transportation does not even come close to efficiency of commercial transport. Look into commercial transport and make personal transport more efficient, or simply take the damn train.

    1. Why does everyone think lithium is dangerous? Is actually quite safe, considering how much energy is being stuffed into the cells.

      Also, it’s not very toxic, in small amounts it is used medically.

      1. When prescribed lithium, a patient has to have very regular blood tests to check the blood levels. The therapeutic dose is quite close to the poisonous dose. But it does what it does better than anything else, I suppose, and that’s why it’s used. Usually only on severe cases.

  20. Toyota Camrys are crap.. I used the same procedure of cleaning the copper fittings and it worked the car ran cool for 2 months then boom dash lights… If it ain’t the hybrid system messing up then it’s the dash melting… Toyota made this car as a setup to cost you a lot more then what you paid for it.. Even if your brakes are low you get the “check hybrid system” warning take it to the dealership and they want to try and change your $5,000 battery.. Low wiper fluid, check hybrid system, change battery.. Stupid I will never buy another Toyota scamry again…

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