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BYD is the Chinese EV automaker ready to take over Tesla as the largest manufacturer of electric cars in the world. It sold an incredible 435,000 EVs last quarter alone. BYD has seen a relatively quick rise for a new EV startup needing cash to keep things going. It’s mostly attributable to making good, inexpensive cars and the country’s pivot to national electric brands. But is a part of its speedy ascent due to drinking battery fluid?

Wang Chuanfu, the founder of BYD, started the company in 1995. According to The Wall Street Journal, Chuanfu once drank battery fluid in front of investors to demonstrate his commitment to his EV company. Seriously!

Why did the car startup head drink battery fluid?

Silver 2023 BYD Seal EV on salt flat car startup
2023 BYD Seal EV | BYD

In 2008, David Sokol of Berkshire Hathaway swung by BYD’s headquarters in Shenzen to check things out. Among the many things he was told was how clean the battery technology was at BYD. Then, to prove his point, he took a gulp of battery fluid sitting next to them. 

Soon after, Berkshire Hathaway made a $232 million investment in the company, amounting to a 10% share in BYD. We’re not serious about using this as an investment tactic, but drinking battery fluid does tend to leave an impression on any bystanders. But is it really such a big deal? 

Is drinking EV battery fluid safe?

Tesla Model 3 battery cooling system overhead drawing car startup
Tesla Model 3 battery cooling system | Tesla

Water is for circulation around batteries to keep them cool. Heat is the enemy of electricity. Electrons create electricity, but the hotter it gets, the slower they travel, making for less efficient electricity generation. The batteries rest in a water-tight enclosure that contains the water.

A water pump circulates the water to regulate temperatures inside the battery pack. Depending on the temperature of the water, the pump’s speed runs faster or slower. The coolant runs through tubes and cold plates before ending up in a heat exchanger, but the system is closed. 

Two glasses with water and floating leafs
Two glasses with water and a leaf | Ernst Haas/Hulton Archive/Getty

Since the system is in an enclosure, no contaminants get in. So, it is a fairly clean deal any way you look at it. Other than having a slight metallic taste, we doubt it was much different than drinking tap water. Still, we don’t advise it. 

Is water part of all EV battery cooling systems?

Water fountain looking down
Water fountain | Robert Alexander/Getty

Can an Electric Vehicle Overheat?

Though BYD was using water for battery cooling, most EV manufacturers use ethylene glycol or certain refrigerants. Ethylene Glycol is toxic, causing neurodevelopment issues and cancer. So it’s best not to try it, though why would you? And why would you need to? 

But in BYD’s case, drinking water from an EV battery cooling system posed almost no threats to Chuanfu. But it makes for a good story.