If there’s any doubt about just how durable and trouble-free hybrid batteries are just visit Vancouver, Canada, where more than 80-percent of the city’s taxi fleet is Toyota Prius Hybrids of various model years.
The Prius taxi that took me downtown from the airport was a 2007 model with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer. The driver told me he had to change the battery recently — the conventional one that starts the motor — not the hybrid battery pack.
The taxi driver told me a buddy of his has logged more than 600,000 miles on his Prius, which needed a new hybrid battery after 350,000 miles. That driver, I was told, bought a used battery from the U.S. It seems that many of Vancouver’s Toyota Prius taxis, and replacement batteries, are bought used from the United States, because the demand for Prius hybrids in Vancouver exceeds the supply.
Toyota offers an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on the HV battery. Considering the fact that these Vancouver taxis are far exceeding their expected lifespan, Toyota should be using these vehicles for real-life testing and market research. When the batteries do finally wear out, one of the world’s largest recycling facilities is just down the road, located in Trail, British Columbia.
The nickel in nickel-metal-hydride batteries, and the lithium in newer lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric cars, are valuable enough to re-process and re-use. Japan also is researching how to re-purpose such spent batteries, mainly as back-up energy storage for emergency power, perhaps replacing generators by hospitals.
My hybrid taxi driver volunteered he loves that his Prius is hardly ever in the shop; unlike the conventional gas-powered Chevy he used to drive. Even more, he loves its fuel economy. He gets roughly 60 miles per gallon. This is an important efficiency, since gas cost between $1.20 and $1.29 in Vancouver. That’s per liter, which converts to around $5 a gallon (the Canadian dollar and the U.S. dollar are on par these days). And that was before the unrest in the Mideast began pushing up the price of oil.
It’s not just the taxis in Vancouver that are hybrid.