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Even after a decade on the road, Toyota Prius hybrids a... Even after a decade on the road, Toyota Prius hybrids are still running very well (Toyota).
The roll-out of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf electric cars in recent months has ignited a debate over this new technology.

Skeptics are posing questions about possible ghosts in the machine, wondering how long the batteries will perform at top level, worried about the length of the battery life, and want to know what it will cost to replace a battery if required.

If those questions sound familiar, it's because skeptics were asking the same kinds of questions about hybrid-car technology almost 11 years ago, when the Toyota Prius was making its debut in the U.S. market.

Fast forward to today. Based on data from over 36,000 Toyota Prius hybrids in its annual survey, Consumer Reports has found that the Prius consistently gets top marks when it comes to reliability, and also boasts low ownership costs.

But now that the Prius has been around for more than a decade in the U.S., and available on the used-car market, some of those doubters might still wonder what the answers were to their old questions about long-term battery performance, durability and replacement. The same could be said of buyers who are considering buying a used Prius with a lot of miles on it.

The engineers at Consumer Reports recently decided to answer those questions by taking a 2002 Prius with 208,000 miles on it, and putting it through its paces. The magazine's testers hooked the car up to its testing instruments to see if battery performance and fuel efficiency had degraded, and if so, by how much. As part of the evaluation, the engineers also checked into battery replacement costs.

The upshot? They found that there was very little difference in battery performance, fuel economy and acceleration in the used '02 model when compared to a nearly identical 2001 Prius they tested 10 years ago when it was new.

The tests recently conducted on the old '02 model are the same ones they performed on the new '01 model 10 years ago. They drove on their own track, ran it through a city traffic course, and took it out on the freeway.

The detailed results: The '02 Prius with 208,000 miles on it got 40.4 mpg overall, compared to 40.6 mpg for the '01 Prius when it was brand new. Highway fuel economy for the old, used Prius was 48.3 mpg, compared to 48.6 mpg on the new Prius back in '01. And in the city, the numbers were 32.1 mpg compared to 30.5 mpg, respectively. (See chart below.)

Ten Years Old and Still Spry

When it comes to acceleration power, the difference was also negligible – the old used model went from 0 to 30 mph in 4.4 seconds, compared to 4.3 seconds for the new model 10 years ago. And, when the 0-to-60 time was measured, the numbers were 13.1 seconds and 12.7 seconds, respectively.

"Because it was a new technology back in 2000, I think the questions and concerns that people had at the time were understandable, especially when it came to how long the battery would last, and how long the battery would perform at top capacity," says Jake Fisher, a senior automotive engineer at Consumer Reports.

When most people think about batteries, they think about other batteries that don't last very long. Car batteries don't last more than a few years, and anyone who owns a laptop knows how quickly battery life can degrade over time.

"People back then were afraid that, over time, the miles per gallon would drop, it wouldn't run right, or that it wouldn't accelerate as quickly as it did when it was new," said Fisher.

Fisher says he recalls rumors about what it might cost to replace the Prius battery if that was required, with estimates as high as $10,000. But, right now, if the battery on that '02 Prius did need to be replaced, it would cost between $2,200 and $2,600 at a Toyota dealership.

"Except, it's doubtful that anyone would buy a brand-new hybrid battery for an eight-year-old vehicle," observes Fisher. "They would be most likely to go to a salvage yard, and find one on a low-mileage Prius, just like you would if you were looking to replace an engine or a transmission on any older car."

Consumer Reports found many such Prius batteries available at salvage yards in the $500 range.

Prius Taxis Perform

Bradly Berman, founder and editor of HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com, says that he is not surprised by Consumer Reports' test results. "For years, I've been seeing reports from Prius-driving taxi drivers, who have clocked 200,000 miles or more, and they've reported virtually no degradation of the battery or vehicle performance," says Berman. "There have been similar reports on HybridCars.com and other sites from individual long-distance hybrid drivers.

"This is not to say that absolutely no owners of first-generation hybrids have had to replace battery packs," adds Berman. "There have been a few, but my guess is that it's a single percentage point or two. By and large, these hybrid battery packs are way over-engineered. The carmakers were worried about battery longevity, and its potential impact on consumer acceptance, so they went overboard to make sure that the batteries would last longer than any other component of a conventional car."

Fisher and Berman agree that this kind of data should assuage any fears that consumers might have about hybrid technology and its long-range viability.

This chart shows the results of the testing that Consumer Reports engineers recently conducted on a used 2002 Prius, with 208,000 miles, compared to the results of the same tests conducted on a 2001 Prius a decade ago, when it was new.

Toyota Prius Comparison
2001 Prius - 2,000 Miles 2002 Prius - 208,000 Miles
Overall Fuel Economy 40.6 MPG 40.4 MPG
Highway Fuel Economy 48.6 MPG 32.1 MPG
City Fuel Economy 30.5 MPG 46.3 MPG
Trip Fuel Economy 48.5 MPG 46.3 MPG
0-30 MPH Acceleration 4.3 sec 4.4 sec
0-60 MPH Acceleration 12.7 sec 13.1 sec
1/4 Mile Time 19.3 sec 19.4 sec
1/4 Mile Speed 74.6 MPH 73.6 MPH
45-65 MPH Passing 7.0 sec 7.3 sec


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  • 62 Comments
      Donnie Lanier
      • 3 Years Ago
      Last year when my partner and I was living in Amsterdam we rented a Prius at the airport and after one day having this car we had to take it back and exchange it because it was a piece of junk. We had to have it jump started twice because the battery would lose its charge and it had no pickup and go what so ever. These type of auto's are a good concept but have alot of work to improve on before I would ever even think of buying one.
      Ken the Great
      • 3 Years Ago
      once again...............Toyota covers for inferior cars......................lmfao
      guinman
      • 3 Years Ago
      Who cares if their reliable! These things are utter POS' to live with on a day to day basis. uncomfortable seats, cheap plastic interior, bus like performance all in the name of what? For what purpose? Load it up with 4 people and luggage and the mpg plummets. If it doesn't perform, handle or have utility then what's the point? Don't tell me it's a good car for an urban commuter because it's not! It's only practical use is for owner operator cab drivers with full ability to write the POS off against their income! Otherwise for most of the rest of the world, the bottom line with running ANY vehicle is CPM (cost per mile) not MPG! For 30K buying an overprices POS prius is just plain smashing your head against the wall! You could find a better driving new car for half of that and have up to 15k left over for gas over a Prius! When will all the sacrificing, and suffering, driving a Prius pay off? Answer: NEVER! Then there is the big 'environmentally responsible' LIE! Even if the C02 lie was true, the Prius is an abomination to mamma gya! The amount of rare earth elements etc. needed to make this thing is a toxic abomination that makes other gas only economy cars look like freshly planted trees next to a Prius. For every ton of REE mined equals countless toxic poisons and huge amounts of radioactive waste! FACT! For those who do their homework and know the truth... all that driving a Hybrid car shows the world is that the owner is the biggest enviro hypocrite asshat that ever hit the road. To suffer driving an overpriced POS stretched hybrid Yaris is the stuff of Git Mo torture! I know, I've driven plenty of them. Then where Toyota is concerned, they are the grand daddy liars of the car industry. Ruthless and scorned even in Japan, these rat bastards have taken millions $ in hand outs from their Japanese gov't. So just remember you hypocrite toyota buyers ARE buying from a tax payer bail out car company! Toyota offered free maintenance throughout the 70's and 80's and fixed tons of defects in secrecy from the owners - never mind in house Toyota repair frequency data. Hell, Toyota donated more money to the Consumer Auto union (Consumer reports magazine) than ANY other car company by a landslide. Free field trips to Japan for US. auto media etc. etc. etc., Toyota fabricated, and paid for their false reputation myth of superior quality and reliably. Any car enthusiast, especially ones who turn wrenches know that Toyota's are over hyped crap for the suckers who think of their car as an appliance. Funny how the US invented nearly every friggen thing and went to the moon but yet is still full of the mentally vacuous who love japanese cars, think they're the greatest and that Americans can't build good cars. One look at Toyota's horrendous motorsport record tells me all I need to know about Toyota. Wake up and get out and drive the competition from the U.S. car companies you ignoramus'.
        wolfgang_minneapolis
        @guinman
        This "review" speaks for itself with it's cave-man bias and slanderous accusations. Sorry guinman, this isn't 1969 anymore.
      dumby
      • 2 Years Ago
      A bit late but wow have to put my 2 cents in. I've been down the buy merican route.....long story short the POS Escort that was haunted with all kinds of gremlins some quite dangerous, lights turning off while going around a 60% corner on a moonless night, one of many such "events". Finally I broke down and replaced it with a Toyota PU. Turns out the Toyota was made in the USA and the Escort was made in Mexico. While I am not a hater of US cars and trucks they have to perform, sorry I work hard for my money. At this point in time A Ford truck sits in the driveway and likey always will, Ford knows trucks. We needed to add something to the stable that gets good milage, this gas situation is likely only to going to get worse and a persons gas bill should not excede their house note!!!!!!! I tried to like the Ford Cmax...sorry no contest. Not even close, a Prius now sits out there with the Ford truck. To those sour grapes out there I do not think the many thousands of Prius owners are in kahoots with Toyota in some evil scheme to trick others into the same "pit of dispair". As we used to say, get real.
      longeye
      • 3 Years Ago
      There is something in the wrong place on the city vs. highway milage comparison chart. Looks to me like someone just put the numbers in the wrong places. Maybe the author even wrote the article looking at numbers in the wrong place. In my own experience with an old Prius, it always got better milage in town than out on the interstate unless I was drafting big trucks. Note to anyone having the Triangle of Death pop up on the info screen, go to a good dealership and the problem will be fixed right immediately and will not happen again.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Do the moran's in the US have any idea of what the energy cost is to produce the batteries in these "electronic miracle" cars? They don't grow on trees- huggers. What? No free lunch?
      awstr1974
      • 3 Years Ago
      We love our 2010 Prius. Even in the midwest winters, we get miles per gallon in the mid 40's. Took it out West when we first bought it and did get 48-50 mpg when driving 70mph. It's a good car and I'd like to thank the people that have described their experiences with older models. America should have been first in developing the hybrid. It's the car of the future.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I drive a 2006 Prius, 90,000 miles no problems. will buy another if i live long enough I'm 80 years old. last summer our tops for all around driving was 54 mpg. Don't blame the unions, Detroit auto management are at fault they had it too good for too long. they are in bed with our petroleum companies. they still want to sell vihicles with super size engines that can go from 0 to 60 in miniseconds. I went to the detroit car show this year--saw nothing in acres of cars that were better than my prius. when big d really tries to compete in energy efficient autos they may make a comeback Paul in Washington State
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not bad. Something is off with the numbers....how did it gain in city Fuel Economy 30.5 MPG vs 46.3 MPG?
      • 3 Years Ago
      toyotas rock.the american junk producers know it.we could put more money in our cars but instead give it to the union thugs.thus producing an inferior product. BOTTOM LINE,YOU MAY NOT LIKE IT BUT THATS THE FACTS.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Look at all the Toyota haters out there!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Once again, "Consumer Reports" proves beyond a shadow of doubt that their so-called impartial research and testing is grossly weighted toward showing Asian cars in a positive light. And, that they're in bed with Toyota. Oh, but they accept absolutely NO advertising. Wouldn't it be interesting if we could look into their financial affairs and find out how much the Asian auto companies contribute to the non-profit Consumer's Union - the parent company of "Consumer Reports"? And there are Lemmings who will believe every word they print.
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