ASK THE EXPERTS: Salvaging Prius Batteries

Toyota Prius battery pack.
Toyota Prius battery pack.

There are some wrecked Prius hybrids at the local salvage yard, and I can get their battery packs cheap. Can I put two or three of these together to power my pure-electric conversion?

John McElhattan • Fresno, California

Bundling these battery banks is not recommended, for a few reasons. The battery pack in the Prius (or any of the other hybrids) does not have the capacity for much range by itself. Even at low speeds in pure-electric mode, the Prius has only about 2 miles of range before the gas engine starts up to recharge the pack. So you would need a lot of packs to get any decent range.

Also, these batteries are not intended to be discharged very deeply. They were specifically designed to work with a gas engine frequently topping them off. In a pure electric vehicle, you need batteries that can tolerate being deeply discharged before getting recharged.

You would also need the battery management system that is part of the Prius’s computer brain. While these battery packs are perfectly safe in the Prius, if they are installed or managed improperly, they can catch fire, which some tinkerers have already had the misfortune to experience.

Prius batteries work great in the original vehicle’s system. There are other batteries that are better suited to a pure-electric conversion.

Mike Brown & Shari PrangeHome Power Transportation Editors

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