People Are Stealing Batteries From Hybrid Cars

May 20, 2015 Updated: May 20, 2015

When life introduces new conveniences, it usually also comes with new problems. Online shopping has been a boon for consumers—and cyber-thieves. Likewise, hybrid cars are simultaneously an ally of the environment and of battery thieves.

The police in San Francisco have identified a growing trend of thieves tearing out the battery out of Toyota Priuses and presumably selling them on the black market, reported ABC7 News.

It’s unlikely that the thefts could be attributed to random acts of vandalism. The batteries weigh 120 pounds, are connected to dangerous cables, and would take a professional mechanic an hour to remove.

Yahoo Autos says that the outbreak of theft coincides with the expiration of the battery warrant for the first-generation of Priuses, whose owners are looking for replacements. Replacements can cost as much as $2,500 retail, but only $500-$1,000 on Craigslist.

Dealers, however, have been warning car-buyers about the possibility of theft as early as 2008.

That the batteries are mostly harvested from third-generation Priuses are another sign that the thieves are professional and organized. They would have to make in-house modifications to be able to sell those batteries in usable form to owners of the first-generation Prius.

Battery thefts from hybrid cars have also been reported in Sacramento and New York. Ironically, the Prius vehicle is actually one of the least likely car models to be stolen in the United States.

The silver lining is that battery theft could decline as the market share for fully electric vehicles grows, as the batteries for such vehicles will most likely be so heavy that it would be impractical for the thieves to transport them. For instance, the battery for the Tesla Model S comes at a hefty 1,200 pounds.