If You Haven’t Driven Your LaFerrari in a Long Time You Might Be Due for a $200,000 Battery Replacement
Look out for bad batteries if you're a prospective hybrid hypercar buyer.
Can you believe it’s been almost ten years since the release of the hybrid hypercar trio? The Porsche 918, McLaren P1, and Ferrari LaFerrari all predicted the performance hybrid future of cars in 2012 — now we’re in 2021 and even modern Ram trucks have some form of hybridization. But those super high-end electrified performance cars were hand-made and contained specific technologies unique to each brand. Apparently, the car with the dumbest name also has the dumbest price tag for its aging hybrid HY-KERS battery.
Here’s a little rundown on how this system works that Ferrari published:
The LaFerrari has two different charging systems, the normal 12-volt one (just the standard battery) and the high voltage KERS system. They are independent of each other and both are strangely expensive to fix, but we’ll talk about the 12-volt system later. The KERS system goes bad if it isn’t used or sits around in a non-ideal state of charge (SOC in Ferrari speak). Basically, the system has an electric motor attached to the gearbox, shown in green in the photo above. That electric motor provides horsepower assistance to the gasoline V12 and regenerates energy under braking. It’s a complex system that is basically race hardware and expensive to replace.
How expensive? Think of a number, and probably quadruple it. Then add some change for good measure. If that number looks like anything close to $200,000, then you’re right on the money.
It’s $199,998.18, to be exact. Part number 312503 from the Scuderia Car Parts catalog.
While Ferrari won’t confirm any numbers, there are many surreal reads to be had on the Ferrari Chat forums, where people casually call the seven-figure hypercar the “Lafer.” It’s the only info I’ve found on LaFerrari ownership, especially long-term ownership, relating to the hybrid batteries. After seeing some rumblings about absurd battery replacement costs, I decided to start digging deeper.
Hybrid batteries (and regular 12-volt starting batteries) have a shelf and service life, like most things on a car. Since consumer-level hybrids have been on the market for over two decades now, the woes of hybrid owners having to shell out decent amounts of money for new batteries or doing some DIY on existing battery packs are well documented. Cars like the Toyota Prius are designed with modularity and cost in mind. Cars like the LaFerrari are designed for maximum performance, minimum weight, and minimum size.
All batteries have a chemical composition. A Prius uses a Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Tesla has Lithium-Ion (Li-ion), and the LaFerrari apparently uses a proprietary Ferrari battery chemistry taken from its Formula One cars that remains a secret for obvious competitive reasons. Still, that chemical cocktail degrades over time and use, causing the battery to lose capacity and efficiency until it eventually goes completely flat.
LaFerrari batteries have a particularly miserable existence because these cars spend a lot of time sitting and collecting dust in some millionaire’s collection, so they don’t really get recharged and exercised the way a Prius’s do.
Replacing that hybrid battery in a Prius costs something like $3,000 at worst, using factory stuff. A Tesla battery pack is in the neighborhood of $10,000-$16,000. The LaFerrari? I’ve seen anywhere from $200,000-$250,000. You can expect a Prius battery to last 10 years with regular use, and even some sitting around. A Tesla is about the same, with the very stable Li-ion battery chemistry. Ferrari owners claim that Maranello told them to never let the car sit around for more than five days, and to not let the battery sit discharged, or else risk ruining the low voltage battery and the KERS battery.
That’s right, the low voltage battery can go flat within a week if not properly tended or driven. I looked up the current rate for a LaFerrari battery, just the standard starter battery (Ferrari part number 283032 323568) and it is $5,000… for a mostly normal 12v lithium battery, five times more expensive than any number of aftermarket alternatives. Owners report using a Braille lithium battery for a fraction of the price, and I’m sure any other similar one would work as well.
But there is no alternative for the big KERS hybrid battery, sadly. That is a repair bill that LaFerrari owners are beginning to face more commonly. While I don’t have much sympathy for owners of a $1.5 million car, it’s fascinating to see these once cutting-edge cars begin to age out. I wonder how many of these cars are sitting around waiting for a battery that might never come, thanks to some owners who never drive the car or don’t want to spend the money.
I’m almost sure if you use your LaFerrari regularly, the batteries would last as long as anything else. But like anything Ferrari, owners don’t drive the cars properly. So if anyone reading this was cross-shopping some hybrid hypercars, beware that they all have this sort of quirk. Happy expensive car buying!