2017 LAASPrestone

Prestone is preparing for the electric vehicle future

Prestone 90th Anniversary

When you think of Prestone, you likely think about engine coolant in a yellow jug. In a lot of ways, that is by design. But as cars become electrified, the traditional engine might go away. Is a company that made its name on engine coolant ready for a world without engines?

At the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, we sat down with Prestone president Steven Clancy to ask him those very questions. We were quite surprised with the answers.

Prestone is celebrating 90 years in the business. That’s a long time. Their product is ubiquitous on store shelves. People might not even be able to tell you what Prestone as a company does, but they’ll know the yellow container when they see it. Many of us would consider that a success.

But Prestone is looking towards the future. In our chat with Clancy, we asked him about electric vehicles. We were standing next to a 2018 Nissan Leaf which is a vehicle that wouldn’t seem like it’d use his product.

“Batteries need to be cooled,” Clancy replies.

It’s true. While the Nissan Leaf doesn’t use active cooling of the battery system, the Chevrolet Bolt EV does. Thermal management is pivotal to getting the power and range out of a battery pack needed for electric vehicles to be successful.

In the EV future, Prestone can still be competitive by offering a product for that application. Not every EV will be actively cooled, but many will be.

In the near future, though, Prestone is focused on best-selling vehicles in the country; trucks. As it turns out, even though their current product works just as well in a Ford Fiesta as it does a heavily-worked Ford F-450 Super Duty, customers demand a heavier-duty product for heavy duty applications.

In the near future Prestone will be offering a project that does just that. It also won’t just be a rebadged version of their current formula.

“While we could do that, we’re working on a product specifically for their needs,” Clancy said.

While it’s difficult for many to get excited about engine coolant, the automotive industry is changing rapidly and the use of a product like that is also changing. Companies like Prestone will need to adapt if they want to be successful, and based on what we’ve heard so far, they’re heading in the right direction.

Chad Kirchner
the authorChad Kirchner
In addition to Chad Kirchner's work here, he's a freelance automotive journalist for outlets around the world.