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Japan: Tsunami Reveals Durability of Nissan’s Leaf


A lithium-ion battery component placed on a Leaf at a Nissan factory in Oppama city, Kanagawa Province, Japan.

DETROIT — Nissan inadvertently gained some valuable insight into the durability of its electric car, the Leaf, when about two dozen of them were destroyed in the tsunami that ravaged Japan in March.

None of the cars caught fire, and their batteries remained fully intact, shielded by an airtight steel exoskeleton and two other layers of protection that surround the 660-pound packs.

“Considering how they were tossed around and crushed, we think that is a very good indication of the safety performance of that vehicle,” said Bob Yakushi, the director of product safety for Nissan North America.

Nissan’s decision to encase the Leaf’s battery in steel may help explain why federal safety regulators investigating postcrash fire risks in the Chevrolet Volt do not have the same concerns about the Leaf. General Motors packages the Volt’s battery cells on a T-shaped steel tray with a plastic cover.
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