Nissan is getting some good news from the tsunami that devastated Japan in March: Two dozen of Nissan's new Leaf were destroyed, but unlike the Chevrolet Volt, their heavily shielded batteries did not catch fire and remained intact. “Considering how they were tossed around and crushed, we think that is a very good indication of the safety performance of that vehicle,” the director of product safety tells the New York Times.
Nissan thinks the Leaf's airtight, steel-encased battery might be the secret to its safety performance. The Leaf battery also runs cooler than the Volt, and does not need liquid cooling. Safety analysts expect GM to recall the Volt to improve battery safety, but with only 6,000 sold thus far, the cost is expected to be manageable. The big cost to GM, however, is in public relations. “Whenever you come out with an alternative vehicle, there will be problems with it,” says an expert. “You want to make sure you get it right, and they didn’t. Nissan clearly was ahead of GM in this." (Read more Nissan Leaf stories.)