Amid Questions Of Battery Safety, Nissan Has Answers

With the NHTSA probing the Chevy Volt’s battery pack for fire problems, and Fisker recalling its first 50 cars over cooling issues, there are a lot of questions about the safety of big car batteries. Well Nissan has some answers, thanks to two-dozen LEAF electric vehicles that were ravaged by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan almost a year ago.Japan’s auto industry was hit hard by the natural disaster, and thousands of cars and facilities were destroyed or damaged. Among the industrial casaulties were about two-dozen LEAF electric vehicles that were washed out, tossed about, and essentially ruined. Yet thanks to an airtight metal shell and two other layers of protection, the battery remained intact and, more importantly, it did not catch fire.

The New York Times spends much of their article discussing the steel casing that encloses the LEAF’s battery pack, pictured at the top of the post.. The T-shaped Volt battery pack, pictured below,  is encased by the frame rails and steel floor of the car, and is covered by plastic.

Only at the end of the article does it highlight the fact that, unlike the Volt and Tesla Roadster, the LEAF’s battery pack is not liquid cooled. Thus, there is no liquid to leak onto the circuitry, causing a short circuit. The NHTSA also did not drain the Volt’s battery pack of power post-crash, as GM was still developing a procedure. The battery pack was also flipped over, and the Volt fires occurred hours, days, or weeks after the accident.GM already has a fix for the battery, at a cost of $1,000, but the real PR damage is already done. A few years down the road though, it will be interesting to see which battery packs can stand the test of time. It’s still way too early to call either car a success or failure, but the LEAF is sitting pretty compared to the Volt right now, that much is for sure.

Source: The New York Times


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.