What happens when a hybrid car runs out of battery? [ Detailed Answer ]

What happens when a hybrid car runs out of battery? [ Detailed Answer ]

When A Hybrid Runs Out Of Gas

If your hybrid runs out of gas, you might assume that giant battery will help you out. However, most hybrid engines simply weren’t designed to operate on electricity alone. They aren’t electric cars after all: the gas engine and propulsion battery are engineered to work in tandem, not on their own. Every hybrid engine runs a little differently, so every hybrid vehicle will respond to an empty gas tank in a different way. Some hybrid vehicles, like the Chevy Tahoe and Nissan Altima, won’t operate at all once their gas tank is empty, even if the battery is fully charged. That’s because running the engine on electricity alone can cause severe damage to the hybrid system. Run out of gas in these cars, and you’ll just need to call a tow or set out for the nearest gas station on foot.

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Can A Hybrid Car Run On Battery Only?

In general, hybrid vehicles are only gas-powered for a short period of time, which means they are 20 to 35 percent more fuel-efficient than traditional vehicles. The hybrid battery cannot run on its own, so owners of hybrid vehicles must invest in new hybrid batteries on a regular basis, which can be costly.

What Happens When Your Hybrid Runs Out of Gas?

Now that you understand how the hybrid vehicle works, you may assume that since there are two power sources, only one is needed to run.

This answer depends on which hybrid vehicle you have, as manufacturers build their cars with different priorities in mind. 

For example, in Chevy’s Tahoe and Silverado hybrids, the SUV and truck will not operate on an empty gas tank. They will shut down, even if the battery is fully charged. In a Nissan Altima Hybrid, the vehicle also shuts down if it runs out of fuel, while plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt do not require gasoline to run at all.

Many manufacturers’ reasoning for this is that running hybrid vehicles without gas makes the battery more vulnerable to damage. So rather than risking damage to one of the primary vehicle components, they don’t make it possible. In some hybrid vehicles, the system will try to restart the engine and will drain the hybrid battery. If you have an older battery this will result in you having to replace it.

In the case of the Toyota Prius, it will run on battery even if it runs out of gas – but not for an extended period. How far it will continue may be based on how much charge the battery has, how healthy it is, and even the terrain. It may only get you a mile or two – but this feature is excellent for helping you get to a gas station.

In Lexus’s case, they do not design the hybrids to run without gasoline, as it can cause damage to the entire hybrid system. Lexus recommends keeping gas in the tank at all times.

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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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.

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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.

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