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Friday, August 3, 2012

Chinese probe clears BYD electric battery in deadly accident

China's government has cleared the electric battery involved in a deadly accident involving one of BYD Co Ltd's electric vehicles that caught fire, the Chinese automaker said on Friday.

A Nissan GT-R crashed into a BYD e6 taxi at high speeds in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on May 26, causing the electric car to catch fire and resulting in the death of the taxi driver and two passengers. News reports and photos of the crash were widely circulated in China, and BYD's shares fell to a seven-month low on May 28, the first trading day after the crash.

There had been speculation that the electric car's lithium-ion phosphate battery may have been to blame, but the Chinese battery and automaker, which is backed by U.S. investor Warren Buffett, said on Friday that the Nissan Motor Co Ltd vehicle's high speed and the resulting collision were to blame instead. BYD cited a probe conducted by Chinese government officials.

"In the accident, the power batteries of such vehicle did not explode, 72 single-cell batteries (accounting for 75 percent of all the 96 power batteries) did not catch on fire," BYD said in a statement.

"The designs of the battery system in relation to the installation layout on the vehicle, the insulation protection and the high voltage system are reasonable," the company added. "No flaws in the safety design of the vehicle were revealed."

BYD also said the other 25 percent of the single-cell batteries were burnt by the fire, but the battery plate remained in place and there was no crack on it.

BYD said the Nissan sports car, despite braking, was driving at speeds topping 180 kilometers per hour (110 mph) when it hit the rear of the taxi. The electric car lost control and its rear hit a big tree and burned.

"The type and severity of the accident is extremely rare," BYD said, adding that the three passengers "suffered severe damage which exceeded the endurance limit of human bodies" due to the two collisions.

BYD said the battery compartment was "seriously deformed" and the power battery pack and high-voltage switchbox were "seriously compressed." BYD said the accident produced an electric arc that ignited the combustible material, including part of the power batteries.

BYD emphasized that its electric taxi had passed all relevant state safety testing, including tests for collisions and the safety of the electrical system and battery safety. It also said the car complied with all relevant national standards.

BYD officials could not be reached for further comment.

The Chinese automaker said Shenzhen City's quality inspection office, working officers from the China Automotive Technology and Research Center, the Research Institute of Highway Ministry of Transport, the Tianjin Fire Research Institute, the fire department of Guangdong Province and the North Vehicle Research Institute conducted the official investigation.

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