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Japan: Toyota works on recycling hybrid batteries

LOS ANGELES (Jan. 3, 12:20 p.m. ET) — Forget those fears that hybrid and electric vehicles will result in landfills full of dead batteries.

When Toyota hybrid battery packs reach the end of their lives, every piece is recycled. And it’s all because of a program launched a year ago by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and its dealers.

Moreover, service departments can use the battery-handling process to help sell new vehicles to used-Prius owners.

Nickel-metal hydride battery packs for EVs and hybrids are expected to last seven to 10 years and 150,000 to 300,000 miles depending on how the vehicles are driven, said Gary Smith, Toyota corporate manager of product quality and service support.

The California Air Resources Board requires the packs to last 150,000 miles, “but that’s not a magic number for us,” Smith said.

Few Toyota hybrids are near that mileage, but Smith expects the number to climb soon. About 500 battery packs expire each month. Toyota hybrids became truly popular with the launch of the second-generation Prius in 2003, meaning the rate of Toyota hybrids with high mileage will increase soon. About 1.3 million Toyota hybrids are in use.

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