When are electric motors and hybrid batteries likely to need replacing?

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Q. The five-year warranty on the electrics on my Lexus Hybrid RX 400h ran out two years ago. The car has been well maintained by Lexus main dealers, recently had its 60,000-mile service, and has had its starter battery replaced. When are the electric motors and hybrid batteries likely to need replacing? Do I need to brace myself for some big bills?
DM, London

A. When hybrid cars first went on sale in the UK, starting with the Toyota Prius in 2000, this was a concern raised by many. More than a decade — and 100,000 UK sales — later, it seems the hybrid components on Toyota and Lexus cars (Lexus being the luxury arm of Toyota), as well as most other hybrids, have proved pretty robust. Toyota UK says it is aware of several Prius cars using the same system as the Lexus that have clocked up more than 300,000 miles on the original motor and hybrid battery.

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Figures from Toyota in America, where hybrids caught on much more quickly (more than 3m have been sold to date, 45% of which are Priuses), offer further evidence. The company quotes a battery failure rate for the first-generation Prius of about 1%; second and third-generation Priuses — launched in 2003 and 2009 respectively — fare even better, with one failure in every 40,000 cars.

If you are unlucky and your main battery fails, Lexus charges about £1,200 to supply and fit a new one. If you are still worried, you can take your car to any Toyota or Lexus dealer and for £59, or free with the next service, it will carry out a hybrid system health check.

Sunday Times Driving Car Clinic: Tim Shalcross, advance driving advice

Tim Shallcross used to train AA patrols to fix cars. Now he advises the Institute of Advanced Motoring – read more from Tim here.

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