The launch of vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf has stirred up a debate over battery longevity. Critics say battery output will degrade and cite outrageous replacement costs as a possible downside to these breakthrough machines. Well, it turns out that skeptics posed similar concerns over a decade ago, when the Toyota Prius made its U.S. debut. Turns out, those worrywarts were too, well, worried.

Based on data gleaned from more than 36,000 Prius owners in its annual survey, Consumer Reports gives Toyota's best-selling hybrid top scores in terms of reliability and ownership costs. As we noted in January, CR set out to answer questions posed by skeptics by taking a 2002 Prius with 206,000 miles on it and putting it through a battery (get it?) of tests.

After extensive testing, CR's numbers show that the first-gen 2002 Prius returned an overall fuel economy of 40.4 miles per gallon, which is virtually identical to the 40.6 mpg that CR recorded when testing a new Prius back in 2001. Likewise, CR found that, with 206,000 miles on the clock, the old Prius' acceleration numbers had only dropped by a few tenths of a second for both the 0-60 miles per hour dash and the quarter-mile run.

While the tested Prius' nickel-metal hydride battery pack showed virtually no signs of degradation ten years and 206,000 miles later, CR's evaluation says nothing of today's radically different lithium-ion packs. Still, since we're a decade on in battery development and the OEMs behind the new batch of plug-in vehicles and hybrids are offering substantial warranties, there's a good case to be made that the critics might not always bear listening to.

[Source: AOL Autos | Image: IFCAR – C.C. License 2.0]

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