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Hybrid Batteries: Recondition or replace new?


For do-it-yourselfters who have more time than money, pulling the hybrid battery and replacing individual cells may be an attractive option.

However, there are dangerously high voltages involved, so that's an obvious concern beyond the time-versus-money equation.


When I first heard of shops reconditioning hybrid batteries, I was under the impression that they were replacing old cells with brand new cells. And, when suppliers said that they were replacing first-generation cells with the improved second-generation cells, again, I assumed that it was with new cells. That sounded pretty good to me

However. I now find that companies like Reinvolt and Dorman (which eventually bought Reinvolt) have never had access to brand new battery cells; their entire method is based on cannibalizing old batteries. Instead of replacing individual cells new, they buy up used cores, identify the cells that aren't yet checking bad, and then, after "freshening" them up a bit by means of cycling them through a range of states-of-charge, they collect them into battery cases and sell them as reconditioned batteries.

 One obvious concern with this approach is that given that the individual battery cells have similar life expectancies, other cells of the same age may fail way sooner than desirable.

 What the car owner ends up with is a battery with cells that are old but hopefully good at the moment. I say "hopefully" good, because I spoke with one owner of a shop who said that he had to warranty a Prius battery got from Dorman multiple times in less than a year. I also spoke with the owner of another shop who told me that they use the reconditioned batteries from Dorman. He says that they have a 20% failure rate within the first 3-months including some that are bad right out of the box. He doesn't like the percentages, but he says that the batteries are about a thousand dollars less than from Toyota, and that he and his customers have accepted the trade-off.

 For me, that's an unacceptable level of part failure. However, for someone who has more available time than money, it may be an entirely acceptable trade-off.


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