Redding garage extends hybrid car's lifetime


Redding, CALIF. - Hybrid cars are great on gas, but their battery packs generally mean that it's not a good idea to get a second hand hybrid.

The biggest issue with the hybrids is the inability to work on the battery's components. Normally a battery pack is replaced outright, a procedure which costs $3,000 or more from the dealerships.

Rocha's Auto Service is the first service station in the Northstate to offer an alternative to an outright replacement. They just opened a new shop which services the battery and has the capability to diagnose and replace individual battery cells. That keeps the cars on the road longer, and keeps the toxic batteries out of the landfills.

"It absolutely is a much better option for the customer than having to get a whole pack replaced," says shop foreman Yamil Rocha. It's much cheaper and "it reduces the landfill [volume taken up by] battery packs."

Service technicians can even condition the battery while it's in the car.

"This is like a tune up [for your battery]," says shop owner Julio Rocha. "It's a good maintenance procedure the customer should give the battery. That way they can keep the car longer."

That conditioning effectively raises the charging capacity to nearly 95% of its original charge. That's similar to giving your engine a complete overhaul and some services can even be done without removing the battery.

And if part of the battery needs to be replaced now individual cells can be swapped instead of the whole battery pack. That keeps costs way down. Rocha estimates that a full refurbish – including replacing a few cells – would cost less than half what it would cost for a new battery.

Rocha says it's important to keep up with the new technology, not run the opposite direction.

"There is nothing to lose here," says Julio. "So I don't think that we have to be scared of technology."

This new shop is great news for current hybrids as the nearest shop that can do the same conditioning service is over 200 miles away in the Bay Area.

Currently the conditioning works best on nickel metal hydride batteries generally found in 2010 models and older. But some procedures – like conditioning – can be done on the newer lithium ion batteries.

Rocha says that next year he plans to open another shop in Chico.

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