As Writers Offer Their Take on Hybrid Battery Costs, Researchers Work to Find a Solution

If dead men tell no tales, dead hybrid cars carry no passengers. Even with the best warranties for your vehicle, there’s no guarantee that your hybrid battery pack system will last past eight or even six years past the purchase date. That’s become a big problem for drivers across America, even though the number of hybrids sold has crossed past the 3 million mark since 1999, according to most estimations.

A recent Forbes piece captured the collective anguish of hybrid car owners everywhere with two sentences in its opening paragraph: “It is the only car I have ever kept until the loan was paid off, and even then I was in no hurry to sell or replace it,” writer Tony Bradley says. “Then the hybrid battery died.”

Like the estimated 3 million hybrid owners out on the roads today, Bradley bought his vehicle (a 2005 Toyota Prius) and promptly fell in love. After eight years, several trips and 100,000 miles, the relationship was stable and enjoyable — that is, until the battery simply gave out.

Bradley had given the Prius to his son and purchased a newer model for himself, but the son paid very diligent attention to the car’s health. When the vehicle frustratingly began refusing to hold a charge overnight, the red flags went up. Then, one day while out for a spin, the dashboard lit up in a flurry of warning lights. The battery was dead, so said the dealer.

But according to Kelley Blue Book, the ’05 auto was only worth an estimated $7,500 at the time, and estimations for replace battery pack replacement were nudging up into the $4,000 range. This was simply not OK with Bradley and his son. His advice? Don’t fork over the dealership price just because you think you don’t have any other options. Instead, find out how to do it on the cheap.

“Research is going to be the name of the game. We get praises from people all the time on our prices,” explains Eli Pruett, Owner and President of Bumblebee Batteries. “When the only other option is the dealership, you’ll be faced with double the cost. If you do your research, you’ll find companies like us and others out there that offer a more cost-effective and economical solution. In many cases, it could also be an upgrade!”

There’s also been some promising talk from the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering involving breakthroughs in improving the longevity of lithium batteries. In order for lithium-ion batteries (the kind that power hybrid vehicles) to operate effectively, they rely on a graphite anode, but graphite has its problems. What doesn’t have quite as many is silicon, which is currently the second most abundant element on earth and might make a suitable substitute.

What this might mean is better batteries not just for our automobiles but also for our household electronic devices as well. Still, that research has a long way to go before it can truly take hold in the hybrid market, reports. In the meantime, there’s just you and your hybrid battery — and how, exactly, you’re going to deal with its problems.

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