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I just purchased a 2004 White with Pkg.#7. I picked up the car from a Toyota dealer in Texas. I live in Nevada, and flew to the Texas dealer and drove the car back home.

During that portion of my trip which was driving through New Mexico, the speed limit was 75mph! I set the cruise control and everything was fine. I had been steadily climbing all day and by the time I reached New Mexico, I had already gradually climbed some 4000 feet during the previous 300 miles.

I had the A/C running as well as my headlights (since there are no longer DRL on the 2004 models). As I drove, I noticed that the Hybrid battery level was gradually dropping. When it dropped to showing only 1 bar remaining, I got worried as I didn't know what might happen if the last bar disappeared.

This scenario is not covered in the Owner's Manual for the 2004. So what would happen? I didn't wait to find out! I dropped my speed to 65 mph and switched OFF my headlights and turned down the fan to LO on the A/C.

This helped, and within about 15 minutes, the battery level had risen to 1-2 bars, so I felt OK for the time being.

The following day, I stopped by a local Toyota dealer and spoke to their Prius specialist. He said that if the bar had gone to zero, I would get a "Turtle" light and the engine would split its power to 50% to the battery charging function. He said I wouldn't be able to go any faster than maybe 50mph until the batteries were charged to at least 2 bars or so.

I checked the Owner's Manual and it makes no mention of a "Turtle" light, nor does it cover the scenario I have explained above.

Can anyone give me some reliable information as to what happens if the Hybrid Battery level drops below 1 bar showing?

I spoke to a Customer Service person at Toyota and he said the car would cease to operate. So, as you can see, I am getting as many different answers as people I ask.

Would appreciate any feedback on this issue as I plan on driving the car on open road trips covering many 1000's of miles every month, and I really am concerned, especially when the temps heat up to over 110 degrees in the Summer and I have mountain passes to go over and A/C use will be a necessity.

Thanks.
 

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mrhummer3 said:
...Can anyone give me some reliable information...
mrhummer3,
Hopefully one of the technical experts here will reply to your post soon. (The Prius bulletin boards at priuschat.com and yahoo.com may provide you with help as well.) In the meantime, I can only tell you that I have been driving my '04 up and over mountain passes all winter, using lights, climate control, and all manner of accessories without EVER experiencing anything like you are describing. Hope you get a satisfactory explanation and resolution from your dealer or Toyota very quickly. Please let us know what happens.
Drive happy (soon),
Moo :)
 

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Low Battery Level

What the dealer described is correct. I experienced this last year driving up the long upgrade from Frisco to the Eisenhower Tunnel, eastbound on I-70, headed towards Denver. I have a classic Prius (2002), but I am sure that the 2004 is similar.

At the bottom of the hill (around 8,500 feet), we were going about 65-70 and passing other cars. After several miles of about 11-12% grade (as I recall), the car started to slow down as the battery charge dropped. When the turtle light came on, we were down to about 55 mph and keeping up with traffic, but not passing many cars, except semi's and old VW buses; and we were getting passed by a few cars.

The Prius held 55 to the summit, but the pedal was floored and there was no reserve power. On the downhill side, we coasted for several miles until the batteries charged back up, but we were keeping up with the fastest cars. The approach to the summit is about 6 or 7 miles of 11-12% grade from both sides, all at about 10,000 feet. The turtle light was on for the last 2 or 3 miles before the summit.

The Prius never seemed like it was going to stall or shut down, but it didn't have much poop. You should note that these grades and approaches are pretty extreme and not typical of most mountain driving. Also, we saw a lot of vehicles on the sides that are overheated or broken down for one reason or another; so the fact that the car was limited to 55 for a couple of miles was not a real problem.

Hope this answers your question. If you can find my previous postings, we also went up Pike's Peak, down the Pacific Coast Highway between San Francisco and LA, thru Bryce and Zion Canyons, and thru Breckenridge and Frasier, and over Trail Ridge Road NW of Denver. All in three vacations within about 7 weeks. What a vacation(s)!
 

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Hi Phoenix,
You really saw the turtle on your trip to the Eisenhower Tunnel? That's the first I've heard anyone report that. The rest of the low hybrid battery behavior you describe sounds like other reports. I recall someone purposely backing up a hill several times and coasting back down in N in an unsuccessful attempt to light the turtle. We'd pretty much concluded that although the pre-2001 Japanese model Prius would turn on the turtle due to low hybrid battery, the 2001-2003 model did not, using it instead for low temperature battery.
 

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Low Battery Level

I was mistaken in my previous post. I thought I recalled seeing the turtle indicator, but after checking with my wife, it never came on. I believe I was watching the Battery/Engine/Motor screen on the display, and the battery went down to nothing -- though now I am starting to doubt my memory.

I do recall seeing the turtle one time last winter. I found out when the engine is very cold, you can floor the accelerator and run completely off of the battery for a short time until the engine starts to heat up. I made a few full throttle starts and ran the battery down. When the turtle came on, the car had almost no power until the ICE got warm enough to react to the accelerator pedal.
 

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On a long up hill climb, if the battery power was drain to a point that the turtle shows up. Will I be able to turn off the vehicle and restart the vehicle let say an hour or two later? or I must recharge the battery by letting the ICE run for a while before shutting down? :?:
 

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licythomas said:
On a long up hill climb, if the battery power was drain to a point that the turtle shows up. Will I be able to turn off the vehicle and restart the vehicle let say an hour or two later? or I must recharge the battery by letting the ICE run for a while before shutting down? :?:
You can shut off the screen, ignore the SOC, and just drive the car. The computer will never let the battery get so low that the car won't start. Unless there is a very serious malfunction. But folks are saying that even if the display shows zero bars, there's still lots of juice in the battery.
 

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licythomas said:
On a long up hill climb, if the battery power was drain to a point that the turtle shows up. Will I be able to turn off the vehicle and restart the vehicle let say an hour or two later? or I must recharge the battery by letting the ICE run for a while before shutting down? :?:
Daniel said:
You can shut off the screen, ignore the SOC, and just drive the car. The computer will never let the battery get so low that the car won't start. Unless there is a very serious malfunction. But folks are saying that even if the display shows zero bars, there's still lots of juice in the battery.
As stated in my first reply in this thread, my experience leads me to agree with Daniel. My '04 Prius seems to do whatever it needs to do to keep going without any input from me. I've not driven up Pike's Peak, but have climbed more than 4000 ft in less than 50 miles many times and never noticed any change in my battery level. The only time I've seen the indicator lower than three bars was during a particularly unpleasant traffic snarl, which kept me inching along in stealth for about an hour. All this talk of battery-level swings is a mystery to me, as my Prius tends to stay in the 2/3 to 3/4 full range (while averaging 44.7 MPG) no matter what I'm doing.
Drive happy,
Moo :)
 

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Like Daniel, the hybrid battery on my 2004 (1700 miles, so far) stays mainly between 2/3 & 7/8 full. It definitely charges slower below freezing, but I have yet to see it below 4 bars. But then, I don't drive in the Rocky Mountains.
 
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