Last week an article in the New York Times highlighted an unfortunate trend which has some hybrid owners trading in their Prius for a straight-forward fuel-efficient gasoline-powered vehicle. The reasoning these drivers provided? The current low cost of gas, combined with anxiety about the cost of replacing the Prius’ 120 lb, $3000 battery. However, used, functional batteries go for under $1000 on Craigslist, which has caused some rather mechanically-savvy thieves to go around stealing the batteries from peoples’ Prii for sale on the black market.
The first-generation Prii are now reaching the end of their eight-year/100,000 mile (or 10-year/150,000 mile—depending on where you live) warranty, at which point the expense of a brand new $3,000 battery presents somewhat of a headache. Toyota dealers in San Francisco have reported that a “rash” of cases in which Prius owners have found their cars broken into and the cables to the battery severed with the battery then removed. Additionally, there are reports of this happening in Sacramento as well as an additional 14 cases in New York City.
As Yahoo Autos notes, this isn’t exactly like stealing a catalytic converter—the batteries are really heavy, the thieves are risking electrocution, and the damage to the cars from which the batteries are stolen can total some $7-10k. Moreover, the batteries are being stolen from new cars—which makes sense in terms of battery life. But the new, third generation Prii has a different battery housing to the first generation, so it implies that the thieves are removing the batteries from the casing and completely rehousing them.
As of right now, the batteries do not have any kind of ID or serial number on them, which means once stolen and put up for sale on the black market, there’s really no way to trace them. Toyota, for its part, has told ABC7 that they are looking into ways to protect the batteries.
Via The Verge