Lexus/Toyota are well aware of these fears, so they have decided to literally guarantee the technology they use in their hybrid cars. Lexus says that their hybrid vehicles feature world-leading technology, including a high voltage battery designed to last for many more years than a conventional battery.
Lexus has demonstrated its commitment to the concept of hybrid technology with the introduction of the GS450h and the RX400h in 2006. 2007 will see the introduction of the LS600hL, the world's first upper-luxury petrol-electric hybrid and the world's first V8 hybrid.
An electric vehicle requires an external electric power source to recharge a spent battery. In a Lexus hybrid vehicle, electricity is generated as the engine moves the vehicle. Therefore, with the simple supply of petrol, an external electric power source is not needed.
Lexus HV hybrid batteries, which are charged as the engine operates, are designed to last for many years and are recharged many thousands of times during normal operation. The batteries are also recyclable.
The batteries in all Lexus hybrid vehicles are under warranty for five years or up to 100,000km, whichever occurs first, for peace of mind. The HV battery should never get completely flat as the car's computer is designed to constantly monitor the condition of the battery. In normal operation it does not allow a charge load of less than 40 per cent to occur.
When the battery's charge level is low the engine activates the generator, and the resulting electricity is used to recharge the battery. Additionally, as soon as the brakes are applied the motors begin functioning as generators, also supplying the generated electricity to the battery.
If there is a severe battery failure or critical problems with the battery, the system shuts off automatically. Lexus Manager for Service and Parts, Mr Bob Dawes, believes the hybrid technology is as reliable as a conventional petrol-engined vehicle.
"Lexus hybrid vehicles are renowned for their reliability and ease of use. Many people misunderstand the technology associated with hybrid vehicles, but at Lexus we have spent a great deal of time dispelling these myths," he said."We are pleased to report that there have been very few cases of Toyota/Lexus hybrid component failure worldwide. In fact these number less than 0.25% of all the Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles in operation," said Mr Dawes."However, should this ever happen, Lexus dealers will be able to replace the battery. And the estimated cost of replacement is only around four thousand dollars; which we believe is minimal given the advanced technology associated with hybrid vehicles."
By the middle of next year hybrid models could account for almost 10 per cent of total Lexus take-up in Australia. By that time Lexus will have become the first car maker to offer hybrid technology in a luxury car, luxury SUV, all-wheel drive and a V8.