Tesla is a big name when it comes to fuel savings and showing the world that the electric car really doesn't have to be a glorified golf cart. But while Tesla's got a big presence in fuel economy, it's got one more big nod in its favor in the form of a recent study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which put a whopping great feather in Tesla's cap. Thanks to the NHTSA's testing, the Tesla Model S has taking home the best safety rating that the organization has ever released for any car that's ever been tested.
The NHTSA's testing gave the Tesla Model S five stars in every single category it studies, including tests like the side pole intrusion test and the rear crash test. This is a rating that only about one in every hundred tested cars can garner, and that by itself is a pretty big achievement. But there's a little extra punch in this one that makes the Tesla Model S special: it has the lowest recorded likelihood of passenger injury ever.
Reports indicate that the Model S managed to beat the safety scores normally posted by much larger vehicles, including both SUVs and minivans. This is largely due to the design of the Tesla Model S sedan, including a larger than normal crumple zone to absorb impact thanks to the removal of the larger space commonly required by a gas engine. Since the Model S' engine is only about a foot across and mounted near the rear axle, that improves the overall safety level and even adds a second trunk. Aluminum extrusions in the side rail—similar to those used in the Apollo Lunar Lander—provide extra help for side impacts. Even rollover accidents saw lower likelihoods in the Model S; the battery pack's location near the floor affords a low center of gravity, which reduces rollover risk and improves handling.
Further testing, meanwhile, revealed further safety issues were largely taken care of; a roof crush test broke the testing device at just over 4 g's, which means the exact crush depth is unsure, but when the testing device broke, the Model S was successfully holding the weight of four other Model S units stacked one on top of the other without crumpling.
As for how Tesla managed to utterly break the test curve, the answer is a fairly simple one: Tesla continually tested the Model S to find points where the car would achieve anything less than a five-star result, and subsequently improved those points to ensure that, when actual testing took place, the car would come out with flying colors.
There's no denying that the Model S did just that, pretty much destroying every standard that the NHTSA could throw at it with an almost contemptuous ease, revealing a car that was exceedingly safe as well as spectacularly green. Of course, it's likely still out of reach for many drivers thanks to its huge price tag (News - Alert)—at last report, $62,400 with a $7,500 federal tax credit—but for safety and value, it's tough to beat a Tesla, especially a Tesla Model S.
Edited by Alisen Downey