What happens when a hybrid car runs out of battery?

In today’s day and age, many people believe that hybrid cars are the very best cars on the market because they combine the range and convenience of an internal combustion engine car with environmental awareness, efficiency, and technology of an electric car.

Even though you should never try this, some hybrid cars can drive without the battery, but the driving experience is going to be absolutely appalling. Besides being uncomfortable, driving a hybrid with no battery capacity can also cause irreparable damage to your hybrid system.

It’s always best to just use the car for what it was made for. If you can’t completely utilize the hybrid platform, don’t buy a hybrid at all. If you do buy a hybrid, and you don’t plug it in, you are relying on the combustion engine which is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.

On the other hand, if a hybrid runs out of gasoline, you will not be able to drive the car. Even though a hybrid can drive in electric mode, this is only available if you have a decent amount of fuel in your tank. If this ever happens, most cars will not be driveable.

Running on a dead battery

Not all hybrid cars can drive with a dead battery, some of them just shut down in order to protect the hybrid system. These types of hybrids are designed in a manner in which the gasoline engine and the electric engine work in tandem, which means that they depend on each other to work properly.

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On the other hand, some hybrids like the Prius are designed differently. The Prius operates on a so-called ‘’parallel system’’ in which the gasoline engine and the electric engine work together, but they don’t rely on each other in the same way regular hybrid powertrains do.

This means that the Prius can drive solely on the combustion engine, but this is only reserved for when you need to reach a service station or a safe location to pull over. Besides not being able to truly drive the car, if you turn it off, you will not be able to turn it back on because the electrical system turns on the combustion engine.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s extremely hard to completely discharge an EV battery because numerous systems are designed to prevent this from happening. If you completely deplete your battery, chances are that something is broken.

Running out of gas in a hybrid

If you end up at the opposite side of the spectrum, once again, it depends on what car you have. Some hybrids like the Chevy Tahoe or the Nissan Altima will not be drivable without gas, while a Chevy Volt for example can drive without a single drop of fuel in the tank.

The reason why you can not drive certain hybrids without gas is that such circumstances can damage the hybrid system. For example, many hybrid cars don’t have regular engine starter motors because the combustion engine is engaged by the electrical system.

This usually means that if the combustion engine shuts off, the electrical system is going to try and start the engine up, but it won’t be able to do so if there is no gas in the fuel tank. The Toyota Prius can also run without any gas, but this is only limited to a couple of miles.

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After that, the car will shut down to preserve its battery capacity. It’s worth mentioning that you should not drive your hybrid without gas, no matter if it’s possible or not.

Inner workings of a hybrid system

As mentioned previously, there are different ways one can build a hybrid vehicle. Some of them are designed with a parallel system in mind that enables the car to rely only on its electric engine or on its combustion engine.

On the other hand, some hybrids are also designed to always rely on both the combustion engine and the electric engine. Hybrids often come with two batteries, a smaller 12V one, and a bigger high-voltage battery.

They also offer a feature called regenerative braking which stores lost kinetic energy on deceleration in the larger battery. The point of a hybrid is to carefully transition between the combustion engine and the electric engine to maximize efficiency.

Hybrids work best in urban driving environments because it allows them to use regen braking, and to predominantly drive with the electric engine, saving the combustion engine for only when it’s needed.

FAQ Section

How much does it cost to replace a hybrid battery?

Hybrid batteries are expensive, and there is no way of getting around that. On average, you are looking at $1000-$6000 for a brand new battery depending on the size and the manufacturer. These estimates do not take labor and dealership costs into account, so this price can even reach $10k on certain occasions.

However, manufacturers are planning on lowering the battery costs in the coming years, and whenever hybrids and EVs become mainstream, battery prices should drop to a more attainable level.

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Are hybrids worth it?

It depends on what you need your car for. If you plan on buying a car for daily city commuting with a few dozen miles per day, a hybrid might be the best option to do so. However, if you are predominantly driving long-distance highways journeys, you should skip buying a hybrid.

This is because a hybrid works best in city environments where you can completely rely on the electrical system and because you can use regen braking.

How long does a hybrid battery last?

According to a few reputable online sources, a hybrid battery should last you at least 80k miles, while most batteries can last even twice as long. It’s worth mentioning that most manufacturers offer an 8-10 hybrid system warranty which includes the battery.

To conclude, a hybrid battery can last you a long time. If you do everything right and you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to charging and maintain the battery, you should be able to rely on it for years to come.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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