How does Lexus Hybrid Drive work?

Since its introduction in 2006, Lexus owners have enjoyed premium levels of comfort and refinement twinned with low running costs and excellent fuel economy thanks to Lexus Hybrid Drive technology. But how does this highly beneficial hybrid technology work in practice?

To help you to have a better understanding of the technology in a Lexus hybrid vehicle, this post clearly explains clearly what Lexus Hybrid Drive is, how it works, and how it brings benefits to the environment and your wallet.

What is a hybrid vehicle?

Vehicles with two or more power sources are usually described as being ‘hybrid’. In most hybrid cars on the road today, the dual power sources are a traditional internal combustion engine and an electric motor. However, the way that the two sources combine to power the car usually follows one of three distinct variations of hybrid arrangements.

Lexus Hybrid Drive is known as a full hybrid system, meaning that its two power sources – a battery-powered electric motor and a petrol-driven combustion engine – are entirely separate from one another. Either of them can power the car on their own, or the power from both units can be combined.

Lexus Hybrid Drive is derived from its parent company Toyota’s pioneering Hybrid Synergy Drive technology, which is the world’s most popular hybrid system, having sold in excess of ten million units since its launch in Japan in August 1997.

The second hybrid variation is described as being parallel. In this set-up, primary power comes from a normal combustion engine, but it is directly aided by an electric motor fitted between the engine block and gearbox. By the nature of its configuration, the electric motor has to squeeze into a small space in the engine bay between engine and gearbox, limiting the amount of power it can provide and the range of the vehicle when operating in all-electric, or EV, mode. For this reason, parallel hybrids usually offer less functionality than a full hybrid vehicle.

Lastly, the third kind of hybrid is the series type. While this type of hybrid still has two power sources, the vehicle is driven by the electric motor alone. The combustion engine isn’t directly connected to the transmission, so it only serves as a generator to provide electrical power for the electric motor. A particular challenge for series hybrids is maintaining efficiency once the battery power is depleted. For this reason, cars with series type hybrid set-ups are rare.

How does Lexus Hybrid Drive work?

All Lexus Hybrid Drive vehicles use six main components: a petrol engine, an electric motor, an electric generator, a battery, a power control unit, and a power split device. The power split device uses a special planetary gearbox to distribute power between the engine, motor and generator.

Through this clever combination of technology, Lexus Hybrid Drive can be described as a smart, fuel-saving technology that switches seamlessly and automatically between the electric motor and petrol engine. By monitoring driving conditions, it intelligently manages the flow of power from both sources and can also detect when to combine the two for maximum efficiency and on-road performance.

Close-up of Lexus Hybrid Drive

The Lexus Hybrid Drive system’s ‘intelligence’ allows the two power sources to operate with a wonderful synergy. When the petrol engine is running, it drives the generator to charge the battery. And when conditions allow it, such as in low-speed urban environments, the generator shuts down the petrol engine and lets the electric motor take over. This means that the car can operate with zero emissions.

The sophisticated engine management system also recognises when the car comes to a halt and switches the engine off to conserve power and cut emissions, automatically firing it up again when necessary.

Lexus CT 200h technical Hybrid Synergy Drive

Because of this arrangement, there is never any need to charge the batteries of a Lexus Hybrid through any other means, such as by plugging it into a mains supply. Sufficient charge is always supplied to and held within this battery via the petrol engine.

How are the hybrid batteries charged?

The hybrid battery can be charged in two ways. As well as using energy from the engine for charging, Lexus Hybrid Drive also charges the battery through regenerative braking, a system which recovers energy that would otherwise be wasted during braking.

Every time the brake pedal is pressed or the driver releases the accelerator pedal to lose momentum, the electric motor goes into reverse, in effect becoming an electric brake and thereby generating electricity. This is then diverted to the battery for recycling.

Lexus CT 200h technical Hybrid Synergy Drive

In other words, the braking energy that is usually lost as heat and noise, or simply wasted altogether, is captured and used to power the electric motor later on. In continuous stop/start traffic, a significant amount of energy is recaptured and stored this way, improving the overall efficiency of the Lexus hybrid and maximising the amount of time it can stay in zero emission, all-electric mode within towns and cities.

Lexus hybrid battery life: How long do they last?

Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive battery

The battery is designed to last the life of the vehicle. In any case, your battery is warranted for five years. The batteries are much larger than regular car batteries as they need to generate and deliver sufficient voltage to power the car at low-speeds without any support from the petrol engine. Their production does have a small, additional impact on the environment, but this is more than compensated for by the environmental benefits of driving a hybrid car.

Procedures are also in place so that each battery can be recycled, arranged through Lexus dealerships.

Is the engine in a Lexus hybrid different to that of a conventional car?

In a manner of speaking, yes. Unlike conventional four-stroke engines, the internal combustion engine used in vehicles with Lexus Hybrid Drive uses a slightly different cycle that produces less heat. This Atkinson cycle also reintroduces cooled exhaust gases into the combustion chambers to make an additional contribution to reduced engine temperatures.

Lexus IS hybrid engine

A conventional four-stroke engine sometimes has to inject more fuel than necessary in order to cool the combustion chamber and stop the catalytic converters from overheating. This is a useful way of preserving components but it also uses more fuel. The Lexus Hybrid Drive solution, however, is more fuel-efficient and has proved to be phenomenally reliable.

Do I have to drive differently to make the most of hybrid technology?

No. Lexus Hybrid Drive is fully automatic and designed to optimise the use of precious fossil fuel for each driver. All you have to do is enjoy the road ahead!

Lexus ES 300h Takumi driving on the road

Is the hybrid system in the Lexus LC 500h the same as in other Lexus models?

No. The Lexus LC 500h features a new Multi Stage Hybrid System, delivering the sharpest and most refined drive from a full hybrid yet, with much stronger and direct acceleration.

The new Multi Stage Hybrid System was developed with ostensibly opposing goals in mind. It wanted to create a hybrid with a more sporting and engaging driving experience, with a closer alignment between engine speed and throttle inputs, while at the same time achieving the best balance of power and fuel consumption.

It features all the elements of a traditional full hybrid powertrain, including a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, a powerful electric motor and a lithium-ion battery, together with a four-speed automatic gearbox mounted at the rear of the hybrid transmission.

The electric motor generates better acceleration feel than a conventional engine, and the introduction of physical gears allows for engine revs to be more closely matched to the driver’s use of the accelerator. The result is a much more direct connection between accelerator pedal inputs and vehicle acceleration, with nought to 62mph brought well into the sub-five-second range.

The Multi Stage Hybrid Drive System is the first Lexus full hybrid system to provide an ‘M’ transmission mode, allowing the driver to make direct and responsive gear changes and enjoy the most sporting and engaging drive yet from a Lexus hybrid.

A new, lightweight and compact electric motor and lithium-ion battery offset the weight of the added automatic transmission, so the new system weighs the same as the current Lexus full hybrid system – an exceptional feat of engineering.


  1. Hi
    I want to buy rx450h but i am afraid of hybrid system.
    If hybrid system will broke , can i drive just with benzin?

    1. Hi Bahrom
      Thanks for your post.
      We first introduced a hybrid system into our Lexus RX back in 2003, many of which are still on the road today. We are therefore confident in terms of the durability and reliability of our hybrid systems. It is not just us saying this either as the attached link shows, we have won 12 customer service awards over the years,
      In the unlikely event that a problem does occur then we have a comprehensive manufacturer warranty (3 year or 60,000 miles) plus extra warranty cover included for the hybrid model components of 5 years or 60,000 miles (whichever comes sooner). We recommend that you stop by your local Lexus dealer to test drive for yourself and this link will help if you are unsure as to your nearest location.
      If you have any other questions or queries please let us know.

  2. Hi I bought a new Lexus IS300 in October 2015 has done 3500 miles while driving to it shows me a message hybrid not working Please advice

  3. Hi, I am interested in buying a pre-used Lexus CT200H – 2011 (110,000 miles). As the battery warranty has expired past the 5 years/60,000 miles mark, should I expect to have to buy a new battery and if so how much do they cost? Thanks, Terry

  4. I need some help.

    I have a Lexus 450h 2006. I have 113k on the clock. The hybrid battery has failed. I have extended warranty, but they are refusing to cover the cost of replacing the hybrid battery stating that it’s the age of the vehicle and high mileage and is not a mechanical failure.

    My warranty expires in November 2106 but back in May 2016 before its 10 years anniversary I got sold another 2 years, so I am covered until 2018.

    I am in in disbelief as it costs £2400 to replace the hybrid battery. I am arguing the following points:

    1) In the warranty terms & conditions it doesn’t say if the vehicle is aged, parts won’t be covered. It says, they won’t cover if it its wear & tear. Can this be classed as wear & tear?

    2) If they are using this ageing argument, they should clearly state this that hybrid batters won’t be covered if over certain age, no?

    3) I reported the Hybrid battery problem before the 10 year anniversary of the vehicle as I had some alarms come up. The dealer than said alarms were cleared and test were inconclusive. Less than 6 months later the hybrid battery has failed.

    I would sincerely appreciate your help guys to sort this out.

    Thank you


    1. Hi Saul,
      Thanks for your post. In order for you to get the best possible advise on this issue we have taken note of your name and email address and passed it to our customer relations team. Someone should be in touch soon regarding your query. Many thanks.

        1. Hi Saul,
          Unfortunately, it’s difficult for us to tell you how long a battery will last. It is dependent on a number of different things. If you’re looking for piece of mind, you can contact your local Lexus Centre who can then carry out a ‘Hybrid Health Check’ to evaluate the condition. Someone from customer relations will also be in touch regarding your previous comment as soon as possible. Hope this helps! Many thanks.

  5. In a post above my first question you have stated “All batteries used in our cars are designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle”

    I have seen this statment all over the internet.

    Can you please confirm this?

    1. Hi Saul,
      The Hybrid batteries have always been designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle. For example, we still have first generation Hybrids on the road with their original Hybrid powertrain and many others with very high mileages. Many thanks!

      1. I am considering purchasing a used 400h with 93000 miles on the clock – However battery life is a concern and I find no comfort in your continuing reference to the non committal statement “All batteries used in our cars are designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle”
        How long is ‘the lifetime of the vehicle’ ?
        What do you rate as “many others with very high mileages” ?

        1. Hi there,
          Thanks for getting back in touch. We are unable to say exactly how long a lifetime of a specific vehicle is. If you follow guidelines as to when you should get your car serviced at an approved Lexus centre and you take good care of your car, a Hybrid system in a Lexus should last. Hope this helps.

      2. So why are they only warranted for the absurdly low number of only 5 years?? Buying a second hand hybrid is like gambling with a potential £4,000 bill to replace the batteries. It’s unacceptable really.

        1. Actually, although the initial hybrid warranty is 5 years, with regular servicing through your main Lexus dealer and completion of the included hybrid health checks can extend the warranty of the hybrid system at no extra cost to the customer up to a maximum of 15 years!

          Even this doesn’t suggest that the battery will automatically fail after this amount of time. The comment referring to first generation hybrids with their original hybrid battery isn’t just unique to Lexus, considering parent company Toyota introduced the technology in the Mark 1 Prius in 1997, I’m sure Lexus can back up their claims!

  6. Hi lexus

    I’ve no idea how the hybrid system works…basically can it be plugged in stayed on charge overnight and then usedthe following day on a full charge to do a decent journey without any need for the engine?

    Also how much are the hybrid batteries to replace if out of the 5 year warranty period?

    1. Hi David,
      Thank you for getting in touch. Lexus Hybrid systems do not need plugging in, The hybrid battery can be charged in two ways. As well as using energy from the engine for charging, Lexus Hybrid Drive also charges the battery through regenerative braking, a system which recovers energy that would otherwise be wasted during braking. Every time the brake pedal is pressed or the driver releases the accelerator pedal to lose momentum, the electric motor goes into reverse, in effect becoming an electric brake and thereby generating electricity. This is then diverted to the battery for recycling.
      The battery is designed to last the life of the vehicle and we would advise speaking to your local Lexus Centre regarding this.
      We hope this answers your question. Many thanks.

  7. Taking my RC300H to France in a week and wanted to input my destination and a couple of addresses into the sat nav memory. Went into destination, etc and changed the country to France.
    I was trying to input 1, place du Chatelet, 75001, Paris but part way through inputting either the town or the street it threw up a load of addresses I had to chose from – none of which were the one I wanted. Is it me or the sat nav?

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks for getting in touch. After speaking with our team, we can advise that in order to find the required address on the sat nav you need to change the country (France), input the town and then input the street. We hope this helps and please let us know if you need any more assistance. Many thanks.

        1. Hi Mike,
          Apologies for not making ourselves totally clear. You are correct in changing the country but to efficiently identify the correct location you need to narrow the search further by inputting the town as well. Once this information has been put in, you will be able to input and identify the correct street much more quickly. Many thanks.

          1. Thanks Ella
            See my original question.
            I put in France, then Paris, then tried the street name and that’s when it came up with a list of names none of which were mine. Similarly I tried to put in the village (east of Paris) of Saint Simeon – as soon as I pot in the Saint (or even St) again a list of Saints but not mine? Have you a Lexus near by you that you could try on?

          2. Hi Mike,
            We’re very sorry for the late response. We have been in talks with our technical team. Would you be able to provide us with your registration number? They will then look at a Lexus system and see if they can advise further. Many thanks.

          3. Hi Mike,
            Thank you for coming back to us. We have forwarded your registration number to our technical team and they will take a look into this for you. Please expect a reply early next week. Many thanks.

  8. Ella – my reply seems to have disappeared.
    See my original question. I did do as you say but as soon as I started putting in the street name it defaulted to a list of streets – none of them mine. Similarly when I put in Saint Simeon (a town east of Paris) it defaulted to a list of places starting with ‘saint or st’ none of them mine?

    1. Hi Mike,
      We’re very sorry for the late response. We have been in talks with our technical team. Would you be able to provide us with your registration number? They will then look at a Lexus system and see if they can advise further. Many thanks.

    2. Hi Mike,
      Please see an exact copy of how our technical team tested this and found the address on a Lexus system.
      “I selected France as country
      I selected Paris as city (alternatively you can also select 1er Arrondissement, Paris)
      I selected Chatelet (Pl.Du) – and NOT Place du Chatelet
      I entered number 1”
      We hope this helps.

  9. I have a GS 300 h 3 years old 110 k miles, it’s a company car. I used to get 600 miles from a full tank of fuel during the first two years now I’m lucky if it does 500. The hybrid battery doesn’t seem to be able to power the car as much as it used to. I guess it’s like having a new mobile phone or a lap top, in the first year you only charge it once a day and as it gets older its on charge most if the time. I feel sorry for the next owner that buys it second hand. It’s such a shame as its a lovely car but heavy on fuel now when compared to a diesel of the same size. The company car tax goes sky high when it goes into its forth year too.

  10. Hi my names jim , please can you help, l won’t to buy a used Lexus 600h but have owned a Lexus 430 as l don’t use the car very often with the old one l had to use a trickle charge to stop the battery going flat . With the ls600h can l use a trickle charger or would it be ok standing in the garage in cold weather for maybe 3weeks without use , thank you

    1. Hi Jim,
      Thank you for getting in touch. We are just checking this with our Technical team and we will get back to your shortly.
      Many thanks.

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