NHTSA tests show Model S safest car

Tesla released data about crash tests, showing that it not only earned 5-star ratings from NHTSA in every category, but proved to be safer than any other car on the road.

In NHTSA's crash testing, the Tesla Model S offered the most protection for passengers of any other car on the road.

Citing crash-test scores for the Model S from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), Tesla said its electric car "set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants."

The Model S achieved 5-star ratings in every category -- Frontal Crash, Side Crash, and Rollover -- tested by NHTSA, for an overall 5-star crash rating. However, Tesla points out that the manufacturer received more-detailed results of the tests from NHTSA, and that the Model S actually got a Vehicle Safety Score of 5.4 stars, better than any other car on the road.

In a blog post, the company provided some detailed notes from the tests, pointing out that the lack of an engine under the hood of the Model S allows for a longer crumple zone, better protecting passengers in a frontal impact.

Tesla wrote that the Model S is the only car to ever receive a rating of "Good" in the Side Pole Intrusion test, contributing to its 5-star rating in Side Crash. In the test, the Model S "preserved 63.5 percent of driver residual space," compared with only 7.8 percent for the Volvo S60, another 5-star-rated car.

The NHTSA site, Safercar.gov, shows that the Model S lacks forward collision warning and lane-departure warning technologies when compared with models such as the Volvo S60 and Cadillac XTS.

As of this date, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not posted its own crash-test results for the Model S. The IIHS includes some testing not covered by NHTSA, such as the recently added Small Overlap Crash.

Some of the Model S' success in crash testing can be chalked up to its battery pack, the heaviest component of the car, which is mounted low in the chassis. Because of that low center of gravity, Tesla wrote that NHTSA's standard testing equipment could not turn the car over.

Tesla also points out that the Model S' battery pack did not catch fire during any of the testing, and that there are no reported incidents of any Model S battery combusting.

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.

 

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