Tsunami-Damaged Nissan Leafs Show Strength Of Battery Packs

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2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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When we wrote last year about the 2011 Nissan Leaf being waterboarded for your safety, little did we know an even sterner test was about to challenge the safety of Nissan's electric car.

The devastating and tragic results of the March tsunami shook Japan to the core, and resulted in the country's industry grinding to a halt while people picked up the pieces, metaphorically and literally.

Nissan stopped production of the Leaf momentarily, but has now gained an unusual insight into the car's durability. The New York Times reports that Nissan recovered around two dozen of them from the wreckage and have been analyzing the results.

Despite the cars being tossed around and smashed, none caught fire and the batteries in all remained completely intact, still shielded in their airtight steel shells.

This strength raises interesting comparisons with the Chevrolet Volt, now the subject of an NHTSA test after two battery packs caught fire in safety tests.

The car in question caught fire three weeks after the test, which damaged the Volt's battery and liquid-cooling system. Two subsequent tests also raised concerns.

Where both Nissan, and Ford with the Focus Electric, have encased their batteries in a steel cell, GM deemed the Volt's floorpan to be strong enough protection for the battery pack.

Even so, and despite no accidents out on the road causing battery fires (and garage fires being attributed to other factors), GM offered owners the chance to drive a replacement vehicle while they investigate the cause of the fires.

Despite the testing fire, the NHTSA has still seen fit to give the Volt its full five-star safety rating, and the Nissan Leaf, which has no liquid-cooling for its battery, also has a five-star safety rating.

These tests and the unintentional damage caused to Leafs in the tsunami should still reassure buyers that electric vehicles are no less safe than their equivalent fossil-fuel cousins - and that manufacturers are putting even more effort into ensuring your safety.

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