“THE HIDDEN COST OF HYBRID CARS”. Green Hybrid. 3 Sept. 2006 – Owners of ‘environmentally friendly’ hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight may be hit with a bill for up to $7000 when their car’s battery dies less than eight years after purchase. The battery unit, which has a lifespan of 8-10 years — shorter in hotter climates like Australia — cannot be reconditioned. It must be thrown out and replaced with a new one, at considerable cost to the owner.
“A replacement battery on the Insight retails for $6840,” said Honda spokesman Mark Higgins. Honda began selling the Insight hybrid in Japan car in 1997 and in Australia in 2000. It sold 44 Insights before withdrawing the futuristic-looking two-door coupe from the market earlier this year. Honda will re-enter the hybrid market with the Civic sedan in March, and aims to sell around 20 per month.
Toyota’s Prius four-door sedan has fared considerably better since it launched in October 2001. Nearly 500 Australians had bought the hybrid sedan by September 2003, and Toyota hopes to move a lot more of the second generation model released in September. Toyota divisional general manager – marketing, Scott Grant believes there is a market for around 50 Prius a month. “This product is no longer a science experiment but a mainstream car,” he said.
Toyota’s manager of alternative fuels and specialized vehicles, Vic Johnstone, concedes the batteries, like the car itself, are built to last less than a decade. “The life of the car and the battery are supposed to be the same… around 8 to 10 years,” he said. “We’re not expecting to replace them [the batteries]. In fact we only hold one [replacement] battery in stock nationally.”