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How to cool an electric car battery

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Tyrone Siu/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A sign is painted on a parking space for electric cars inside a car park in Hong Kong. The 2014 Smart ForTwo is the smallest, shortest, and cheapest electric car sold in the US.

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Before the Chevy Volt (a plug-in hybrid) went on sale, Volt Chief Engineer Andrew Farah openly acknowledged that the extreme temperatures found in the Southwest have the potential to permanently reduce the battery pack’s capacity to store energy:

“The Volt may not be right for everyone. If you live in the Southwest, depending on how you use your car, the Volt might not be right for you.”

So what is a manufacturer to do if a given customer’s driving habits consistently exposes his or her battery pack to excessively high temperatures in a place like Tucson, or charges it five times a day, or maybe applies a blowtorch to it? As it turns out, the answer depends on what the warranty says, not so much on what the owner’s manual warns you not to do.

As the chief engineer for the Volt warned above, Nissan’s owner’s manual also warned that excessive exposure to ambient temperatures above 120 degrees F would degrade battery capacity. However, when a handful of Leaf owners in the Southwest realized that their batteries were losing capacity faster than batteries not repeatedly exposed to temperatures over 120 degrees F, they filed a class action lawsuit. 

How Nissan responded:

 “So today, we are announcing that we are enhancing the warranty coverage of the battery system that powers the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle. With this action, Nissan becomes the first and only manufacturer in the automotive industry to provide limited warranty coverage for battery capacity loss for electric vehicles.

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