Nissan Leaf Transmission Tear Down

by Ben N on March 17, 2020

I recently disassembled a Nissan Leaf driveline. That was essentially just taking apart the main components of the charger, inverter, motor and gearbox.

After doing that, several viewers requested seeing inside the gearbox. I was also interested in seeing inside and was curious if I could use part of it to mate with the motor for use in other projects.

So, I set to work taking apart the Nissan Leaf’s single speed gearbox.

I started by trying to drain any fluid from the case. I opened a drain plug, but nearly no oil came out. From the salvage yard, there was a tag on the entire assembly saying the fluids had been drained. I assumed that only meant the coolant though. The drain valve on the gearbox was really hard to crack open. I would have assumed that meant it hadn’t been opened!

I set the gearbox on it’s side and pulled all the case bolts out. There is a cap with three bolts which is sort of a cover over the middle shaft. I pulled the bolts, but corrosion prevented me from pulling it off. After some beating, scraping, and twisting, I got it removed.

Under the cap is a device that looked pretty strange to me at first. There was a pair of carbon brushes pressing against the shaft, but they didn’t appear to be connected to anything else. After studying it a bit, I realized that it WAS connected to the two bolts connecting the device to the case. The idea is that this grounds the rotating shaft to the case of the gearbox. This prevents stray voltage from forming currents which can arc the bearings.

Under that component was a retaining ring and washer. I removed it with my slip ring pliers. That was the only specialty tool I needed to take the transmission apart.
https://amzn.to/2Ui0Lqr

I thought I was now ready to split the case, but couldn’t be sure whether or not the black triangular device on the outside was an issue. This is the electrical end of the parking brake. I popped it off, just in case. Under that was just a narrow shaft leading into the case.

Next, I pried around the outside edge and was able to break the seal of the case. With that, I removed the one half.

Inside, we can see the overall simplicity. The first shaft is the input from the electric motor. The center shaft has two gears on it, one large and one small, to reduce the speed and increase the torque. Lastly, the differential has the largest gear and splits the power out to the two wheels.

I tried counting the gears. Assuming I didn’t lose count…
Input shaft: 17 teeth
Middle shaft large gear: 32 teeth
Middle shaft small gear: 17 teeth
Differential gear: 75 teeth.

According to Wikipedia, the Nissan Leaf gear reduction is 7.94:1
My math based on the gear count would have put it just over an 8:1 ratio.
(That’s assuming my math and counting are right! Either way, “About 8:1” is still a correct description of the gearing in this car!)

Really, the only other thing inside the gearbox was the parking brake. The mechanism instantly went “sproing!” when I pulled the case. One of the parking brake elements is spring-loaded and around a pin on the other half of the case. Even with that disconnected, I can see how the mechanism jams into the dog-toothed gear on the input shaft, locking the gears, and thus the wheels, in place when the car is in park.

Parking brake mechanism

The last thing I was really curious about is how easy it would be to remove the input shaft. The Nissan Leaf electric motor (EM57) has a relatively short driveshaft, and it has splines on it. Splines aren’t always easy to match up. I might have to find just the exact odd clutch disc, or some other source for the splines OR I could take them from the gearbox.

I lifted straight up on the input shaft, and it slid right out. The shaft is mostly hollow, to allow space for the motor drive-shaft. It also has two bearings and the gear for the parking brake.

I slid the shaft onto the motor driveshaft and it popped right in place. An o-ring and matching groove insure a good fit.

If I wanted to extend the drive-shaft, support it, maybe even attach something like a flywheel to it, using the input shaft from the gearbox might be one way to do it. At this point, I’m considering using this motor for an electric tractor conversion, but the main concern is about supporting a large flywheel.
But that’s for another day….

Gearbox input shaft slid on the motor driveshaft.

It’s certainly interesting to be able to crack something open and see how it works. I can probably even put it all back together, although I’m not so sure about the parking brake elements!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

PS: It turns out Wikipedia is wrong! At the suggestion of a YouTube viewer, I just manually spun the output gear and counted the rotations of the input gear. You won’t believe what it came to!

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Nissan Leaf Electric Motor from Junk Yard

by Ben N on February 19, 2020

Mandatory motor selfie.

Pretty excited that I just picked up a Nissan Leaf Motor!

Yesterday, I drove to Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin to Diamond Auto parts to pick up not just a motor, but also the gearbox and inverter for a Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf motor packs quite a bit of power into a small package, and they are readily available due to the large total number of cars sold. I took a look at Car-Part.com to find one. The auto salvage search engine showed a few in my state. By chance, the closest one also happened to be the least expensive, with the retail price listed as $550. (2013 Leaf Motor, part EM57, electric traction motor.) I called and ordered the part. In the end I called back after deciding I wanted the gearbox and inverter as well.

The entire unit could be used together, but just the gearbox itself would also provide a template to build an adapter plate to match the electric motor.

I hit the road for about an hour drive or so to get to the salvage yard. Once I had paid, I was directed to the shipping area, where I would show my invoice and get the motor loaded up.

The motor was “crated” – that is to say it was on a small custom piece of wood. The upside of that is it wasn’t very wide. A typical wooden pallet is 40 inches wide – the EXACT width of the rear interior of my 2012 Chevy Volt!

The downside is that the motor with all the other components attached is rather TALL! We used the forklift to get the motor right to the back of the car, and then had to lift the motor off the wood crating, into the car, and scoot it far enough forward to close the hatch.

I also didn’t have anything with me to tie down the motor. We had a big snowstorm the night before. All my ratchet straps are in my old pickup truck cab, which was now buried on the other side of several tons of snow…

There was a Menards home improvement store right across the street from the salvage yard. So, I reached into the back of the car, held onto the top of the motor, while gunning the car across the heavily trafficked state highway. NOT the sort of thing I would want to do for an entire ride home!

I headed inside the store, bought a new pair of ratchet straps, tied down the motor, and headed home.

Once I was back, I got out my engine hoist.
Lifting the motor from the back of the car did present a few challenges. For one, the Volt is a rather low car. The legs of the engine hoist could only slide so far under the car before they started hitting the wheel supports.

The motor itself didn’t have any great mounting points on it. I ran a couple of straps THROUGH the assembly and tied them in place. That gave me something to hook to the hoist.

I also found that the Leaf driveline was tall enough that I had to remove, shorten, and reinstall the chain on my hoist. Only then did I have just enough room to clear both the hatch at the top and the car body at the bottom.

I managed to push the engine hoist and motor into the garage, navigating around miscellaneous tractor parts, and finally lowering to the concrete floor.

I really hope this motor will work out to power the electric tractor conversion. The drive-shaft on the Leaf motor isn’t ideally suited for it, as it’s a tad short, and I’m sure the bearing was never intended to hold the weight of a tractor flywheel! That’s part of the reason why I also got the transmission (single speed gear reducer.) I would be able to take that apart and examine the connection and bearing inside it.

All told, the motor assembly was not cheap, but it was reasonably priced compared to the same components at other salvage yards, and it was definitely less expensive than the same components on eBay!

The motor was listed as $550, the transmission at $250, and the Inverter at $300. Beyond that were “core-charges” of $35, $18, and $30, and of course, sales taxes.
(A core-charge is a fee you pay for NOT bringing in the old part you are replacing. Core-charges are meant to encourage recycling and work very well for items like automotive batteries.)
Total financial cost was $1,248.07. If you buy parts like these at a salvage yard, make sure to check on core-charges and other fees before you buy. Sometimes they are reasonable, sometimes NOT.

I’m looking forward to disassembling the motor from the other components. I’ll be sure to shoot a video about it as I do.

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

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Suzuki SV650 Electric Motorcycle

by Ben N on February 9, 2020

Electric Suzuki SV650

One of the joys of going to FULLY CHARGED LIVE (Feb 1 & 2, 2020 in Austin, Texas, USA) was meeting people in the real world who I otherwise only knew via the internet.

Robert Powell is one such person. We met up with him before the event opened and got a chance to see his converted Suzuki SV650. This motorcycle has been a labor of love for Rob for a few years now. It’s an interesting motorcycle in that it features ZERO’s #00001 motor and a hand-remanufactured BMS to control recycled Nissan Leaf cells.

12 Nissan Leaf cell modules and custom BMS

The build also makes nice use of 3D-printed parts as mounts, covers, and hold-downs.

In the back, a pair of Mean Well LED Driver Power Supplies act as the main charger. (This is the same line of power supplies we used for the Vectrix!)
https://amzn.to/3byOkhQ

Rather than rambling on about it, watch the video and hear all about it from the builder himself!

To learn more about the project, check out Robert Powell’s web page at: https://sv650e.com

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

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Chevy Volt Dent Repair

by Ben N on January 3, 2020

After installing the new doors on the Volt, it was road-worthy, but I still didn’t like the dent in the back fender. There were a few dings above the rear door as well. So, I set to work to figure out how to pull out the dents.

I had already played around a bit with an industrial grade suction cup (https://amzn.to/2QqkpzT) and was able to slightly reduce the fender dent.

Next, I headed to Harbor Freight Tools and bought a Paintless Dent Removal Kit. It’s basically a hot glue gun and a crossbar. Threaded inserts get glued to the car body. By threading a knob on the other end through the bar, the metal gets pulled up, removing the dent.

Harbor Freight dent puller kit.

Of course, it helps if you are the artistic type for the finished look, or the engineering type, so you know the order, direction, and distance to pull. I really had neither, and this was my first time doing this. I was working outside and the ambient temperature was about freezing. After a few times of snapping the glue right off, I made space to bring the car inside to warm up.

Overall, these tools work as they are supposed to, but so much of it depends on the exact nature of the dent. The Harbor Freight tool was limited in that it only had two of the puller tabs – one round, and one football-shaped. There was also only a very small bottle of glue release agent. Right on the bottle it listed the only ingredient as acetone, so I grabbed a full size can of acetone next time I was at the hardware store. I also think that it would be easier to pull the dents with more of the pull tabs, and a larger variety of sizes and shapes. If I did it again, I’d buy a more complete set of parts for a Paintless Dent Removal, something along the lines of this one: https://amzn.to/2MUnuWG

I repeated the pulls a number of times, and sure enough, I was able to get metal to move and reduce the denting. Above the door frame, the golf-ball-sized ding actually cut all the way through the paint. When I went to pull the dent, the hot-glue puller actually took the paint right off. When I tried again, I found that the glue does NOT stick to the primer or undercoat.



On any parts of the smaller dents that were pulled up too high, I was able to flatten them back down with the included blunt plastic device designed for the job, or even just my rubber mallet.

As much as I pulled, I couldn’t get the fender dent out. There was just too much of a crease right at the door frame. To make any more progress, I would have to pound out the dent from behind. That meant removing the interior trim from the back of the car. I had one of those plastic trim removal kits, (https://amzn.to/2sMhJDp) which made it easy to pop a few of the connectors holding the interior in place, but I had to remove a number of other pieces of the interior to be able to pull the rear corner panel.

Hard to get to the fender exterior with all this in the way!

Once I had, I could see very limited access to the sheet metal from inside the car. (Last time I tried such a thing, it was on a 1996 Geo Metro. I just punched the metal from the inside and the dent popped right out!)
There was a hole about an inch square. I pushed a 2-foot-long socket extension through and was able to push and pound on the back side of it. Unfortunately, I had to do this left-handed (my bad wrist, too!) and the tool was too long for me to pound and see the results at the same time.

I looked around for something else and settled on using the handle from my car jack. That let me work in closer. I was able to bang out some more of the dent from the inside. I also managed to crack the paint right there. I was so focused on just where I was pounding, that I forgot to occasionally hit the paint with a heat gun to keep it warm and malleable. That was right by the crease, and there was a crack in the paint very close by anyways.

By about that time, I was done for the day. The dent was certainly better, but by no means an A-1 repair. I’m sure that with a little Bondo and paint, it would probably look pretty good.

Pounded out from the inside.

The next day, I took the car out in the sunlight. The dents are very subjective. A big part of it is just the lighting – the angle of the sun and the direction of the light versus the dents. From some angles, it doesn’t look to bad at all. From others, there’s a very noticeable small crease right behind the door.


I’ll probably attempt a little sanding/filling/painting and making this look as best I can. Still, it’s pretty nice looking for a $2800 car!

Until next time, stay charged up!
-Ben Nelson

More about this project in the previous posts: https://300mpg.org/2019/12/28/fixing-a-crashed-chevy-volt/

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Fixing a Crashed Chevy Volt

by Ben N on December 28, 2019

New to me 2012 Chevy Volt

I just purchased a Chevy Volt!
While I’m excited about that, the only reason I got it was because it was cheap. And it was cheap because it needed a bunch of work…

The nice side of the car

Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine was driving his 2012 Chevy Volt when a deer hit him. (No, he didn’t hit the deer). He was driving about 65 MPH when the deer ran into the side of the car. For those of you who don’t live in deer territory, striking one of these animals is common, and can cause a tremendous amount of damage.

The bad side of the car.

The car is the premium trim level with leather seats, backup camera, nice stereo, and all the other bells and whistles. The owner even installed a HEATED steering wheel in the car THE DAY BEFORE it was hit by the deer!

After dealing with the insurance company and getting a repair estimate, the cost to fix was nearly $8,000! So, the insurance company simply made a payout. The value of used cars like this in my area usually go for about $10,000. So, the insurance company would simply pay the value of the car, instead of fix it. It wasn’t a “total loss” in that the car actually still drove fine and safe. It would just cost a fortune to fix.

That’s when the friend called me and said that he could “buy-back” the car from the insurance company for only the difference between the car value and the repair estimate – in this case, $2745.oo! And he offered it to ME!

Here is also where things get interesting.
I actually ALREADY own a 2012 Chevy Volt. And I bought it from the same guy. About a year earlier, his mother was driving her Volt, ran a red light, and front-ended straight into a pickup truck. She was fine, but all the airbags fired off and the entire front end was smashed in. I purchased the car at the insurance salvage price so that I could get the battery and sell any other parts off of it to get a little profit. I’ve been busy with other projects and hadn’t had a chance to pull the battery yet, so I haven’t really talked about it.

The salvaged parts car.

That car has TWO PERFECT driver side doors. And it’s silver. And even the same model year!

So, when I had the chance to buy a Chevy Volt at a cheap price because it needed fixing, I jumped at the chance because I already owned a matching parts car!

I bought the car and was able to simply have the title signed over to me, instead of having to send in for a Salvage Title. I fully expected a salvage title and having to take the vehicle in for inspection after repair. Apparently, the State of Wisconsin no longer issues salvage titles for cars over 7 years old. It’s a 2012 model year car, and here we are at the very end of 2019! Whew! Just made it!

I drove the car home. My little girl got to ride with me and she said how “cool” it was! The first thing to do was just clean the car a bit. I even took it to the car wash to get some of the dirt off. For all I knew, the doors leaked like a sieve. Running through the car wash would let me know that too!

Running the car through an automatic car wash.

The next day, I set to work removing the smashed doors. The driver’s door doesn’t open from the outside. I’d been opening it so far by reaching in through the passenger side to unlatch it from the inside. For the rear door, I hadn’t even tried opening it yet, for fear that it wouldn’t close again. It turned out those fears were unfounded as I COULDN’T OPEN THE BACK DOOR AT ALL!

I tried finding some YouTube videos on replacing Volt doors, but wasn’t able to. I instead did a search for Chevy Malibu and Cruze, figuring those were similar cars. Sure enough, I found a couple of videos, and they were helpful to figure out how to take the doors off.
I also removed the driver seat, as that was torn and the heated seat wouldn’t work.

Removing the back door was challenging. It wouldn’t open at all. Even after I pulled out the bolts mounting it to the hinges, it barely moved. I pulled off the door interior and did all I could to unlatch it from the inside. No Luck.
I switched to the outside of the door and drilled multiple holes and cut with an angle grinder to expose the interior latch. Once I had, I could release the latch and remove the door.

Removing the driver seat and both doors.

After that, I headed over to where the parts car was stored and removed the doors and seat from that vehicle.

Back home again, installed the “new to me” seat and doors in the car. The back door needed a little tweaking, but after simply adjusting the hinge bolts, it seemed to fit and close well.

I finished installing the doors just before dark on Christmas Eve. We drove to the car over to visit relatives. It drove great, I love the stereo, and the heated steering wheel was pure luxury!

Although the car was totally drivable, I still wanted to fix the dents. I got a Harbor Freight paint-less dent repair kit. I set to work trying to pull the dents.
If I did it again, I’d try a kit with more accessories, like this one: https://amzn.to/2QpO4rK

After I got the car all back together, I found that I had an Airbag error on the dashboard! Oh No! I know that cars get more and more complicated all the time, but I was really hoping to NOT have to do something like remove the airbag computer. Part of the appeal of buying the damaged Volt was that NONE of the airbags had gone off during the deer collision. So what was happening now?

I replaced the seat and doors from a parts car which HAD been in an accident where most of the airbags fired. Was a sensor from that crashed car causing a problem in the car I was now driving?

I set to work poking around inside the original doors. Two reasons for that. One is that the drivable car has the higher end sound system, including better quality speakers than the other car. I wanted to transfer those speakers, so I would take the door interior panels off anyways. Secondly, somewhere in those doors should be impact sensors. Perhaps those impact sensors in the replacement doors were the problem, and I could swap them for the originals?

Once I found the impact sensors, I ended up realizing that I didn’t have the right tools to remove them anyways. (I still pulled the speakers.)
I had found out on a web forum about something called the Seatbelt Pre-Tensioner. This is a device mounted on the seat.

Since I had the one seat out and accessible, it was easy to remove one plastic cover and take a look at it. I then removed the seat in the car, took at a look at the matching part, and compared the two.

Sure enough, they were physically different. Although the airbag in the driver’s seat had not fired (green-trimmed replacement seat from the parts car) the seatbelt-pretensioner HAD been activated. It’s a one-time-use part, and looks different after it’s been used.

Seatbelt pre-tensioners. Good one is in the upper-left. Used/fired/activated one is lower-right.

I swapped the pretensioner from the original seat to the replacement seat and reinstalled it in the car. Wow! The airbag error was gone! If you ever need to replace a seat in your car with one from a junkyard or parts car, keep this in mind! The only thing I wish is that I had thought of it sooner, so that I hadn’t needed to install the seat more than once!

That’s if for now! Check back on this post often, as I will update it with whatever progress I make on this car.

Until next time, stay charged-up!
-Ben Nelson

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Prepping to remove the Loader

November 20, 2019

I removed the sheet metal “Hood” of the tractor to get a quick look at the engine. Pretty simple under there, but both the loader arm AND the loader frame really block working on it. Clearly the loader has to come off right away. In the front, the loader is bolted to the tractor with […]

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Tractor Arrives!

November 15, 2019

Today’s excitement is that the tractor arrived!When we went to look at the International Harvester 300 Utility tractor, one of the appealing things about it was that the seller offered to be able to deliver it.So, today, I’m waiting for the tractor to show up on a gooseneck trailer. The seller, Wayne, showed up right […]

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Winter Projects

November 13, 2019

Winter hit hard and fast here in south-eastern Wisconsin, with 6 inches of snow in October and it’s 6℉ as I write this in early November. So, that means it’s time to button down our winter projects! CRASHED MITSUBISHI IMIEV AUCTIONIn the last video update, I mentioned a crashed Mitsubishi iMiEV that was up for […]

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October Electric Bill and Time of Use

November 12, 2019

I just got my October electric bill! Let’s look inside and see what it comes to. Since I have solar on my garage, my electric bill is far less than it used to be. I typically look forward to getting my bill and taking my best guess as to what it will come to. Overall, […]

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Ford 8N Tractor for Electric Conversion?

October 29, 2019

Today, I stopped over at a friend’s farm property to check out a couple of tractors. I’ve recently been researching which tractors might make good candidates for an electric conversion, but what I really needed to do is just go out and see some. A family friend, Linda, had two old tractors on her property. […]

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DIY Teardrop Trailer Tour

October 9, 2019

About 15 years ago, I built a teardrop trailer. At the time, I never dreamed I would tow it with an electric car! But here we are, living in the future! A teardrop is a retro style of camping trailer with a shape, you guessed it, like a teardrop. These were popular after World War […]

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Tesla Implant!

October 1, 2019

I recently met up with John Olson. He implanted himself with an RFID chip which would allow him to unlock and drive his Tesla Model 3 just by holding his hand up to his car! I met him at the Milwaukee Makerspace for a video interview. One of the reasons we met there was that […]

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Solar Savings – August 2019

September 9, 2019

I just got my electric bill for this past month. Let’s open it up and see what it comes to! August was relatively cool, so we didn’t use the air-conditioning much. That’s important, as what I PAY for electricity is simply the difference between how much I make with the solar and how much I […]

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Wheelie Poppin’ Tractor for Junk Parade!

September 2, 2019

This year, I made it. I got my overpowered piece of junk electric tractor into The World’s Greatest Junk Parade! Last year, I took this old GE Elec-Trak frame and added a forklift motor and 6 Nissan Leaf Cell Modules. The driveline was a little complicated, and I didn’t get it working in time for […]

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Lithium Battery Communications

August 26, 2019

I just got my laptop to communicate with the Valence lithium batteries in the Ford Ranger EV pickup truck! The truck’s instrumentation is pretty basic – just a “Miles to Go” and “Percent Charged” meter, which were designed to work with lead-acid batteries. I wanted to be able to communicate directly with the lithium batteries […]

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Electric ATV Repair and Upgrade

August 11, 2019

Not long ago, a neighbor was cleaning out his garage. Among the things he was getting rid of was an old kids electric ATV. It was in poor condition, but looked like a fun “fixer-upper”! My daughter is also now eight-years old and has outgrown her Solar-Powered PowerWheels. So, a Razor brand ATV looked like […]

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Electric Truck Lithium Battery Upgrade

August 10, 2019

I upgraded the Electric Ford Ranger to Lithium Batteries!The truck had Group 24 Lead-Acid batteries in the bed. The batteries pulled from the Smith electric truck are Valence brand Group 27 batteries designed as 12V replacements. So, the logical thing to do was simply pull out the lead and put in the lithium in it’s […]

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July 2019 Electric Bill

August 8, 2019

I just got my July electric bill. Time to open it on camera so that you and I get to see what it is at the same time! In July, we finally started getting some nice summer days! (June was surprisingly rainy and cloudy!) But along with the sun was HEAT. We used our central […]

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Battery Pack Disassembly

April 18, 2019

Once we finally made it back from North Carolina, we needed to unload the batteries. While we had a forklift to LOAD the batteries, we didn’t have one at my place and had to resort to an engine hoist, furniture dollies, and finally, steel pipes. Getting 2,000 pounds of batteries off the trailer was no […]

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Removing the Batteries from the Smith Electric Truck

April 15, 2019

Well, it’s been an adventure so far…I was originally asked by my friend, Seth, to accompany him on a road trip to buy a commercial electric truck. The Copart auction had already taken place. He just had to drive 900 miles to get the truck and drag it back home. In the highlight of the […]

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