Spending less on your EV shouldn’t mean skimping out on safety. This is why we’ve rounded up every new electric car and truck currently sold in the U.S. and listed how they perform in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), along with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Not only are the cars crashed at various speeds and angles, items like headlight performance and the ease of using Latch child seat connectors are taken into account, too.
Safety features and crash test ratings should always be a prime consideration when shopping for any new car or SUV, no matter the type of engine is under the hood. When it comes to electric cars, however, primary focus is often put on the price and driving range. After all, there is a chasm between the lower- and upper-end of the EV market. A Tesla Model S luxury sedan, for example, can exceed 300 miles-per-charge and higher trim levels zoom past $100,000. Compare that to a Nissan Leaf or Hyundai Ioniq, which deliver anywhere from 125-200 miles of range and start around $30,000, before factoring in tax incentives.
The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt has a range of more than 250 miles. (Photo: Chevrolet)
The 2019 and 2020 model year of the Chevrolet Bolt both score an overall five-star rating, the highest achievable score, in crash tests conducted by NHTSA.
In tests conducted by the IIHS, the Bolt earned a rating of “Good” in all six crash tests. The Bolt’s headlights were noted as being “Poor,” however, and the ease of using its Latch child safety seat anchors was noted as being only “Marginal” in terms of their accessibility.
The Nissan Leaf was one of the first mainstream EVs when it went on sale nearly a decade ago.(Photo: Nissan)
The 2019 Nissan Leaf has not been crash tested by NHTSA. The most recent round of tests conducted on the Leaf stretch back to the 2014 model year, when the Leaf scored an overall four-star rating.
The IIHS presently has scores in three crash test categories for the 2019 Leaf. While the rating is somewhat incomplete, the Nissan did earn a “Good” rating in each category that’s listed: Moderate Overlap Front, Side, plus Head Restraints and Seats. Like the Chevy Bolt, the Leaf scored a “Marginal” rating for the effectiveness of its headlights.
The Tesla Model S has a superb safety record in NHTSA crash tests. (Photo: Tesla Motors)
Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S was last tested by NHTSA back in the four-door luxury sedan’s 2016 model year, when it scored a five-star overall safety rating. While an updated score would be ideal, it’s worth noting the Model S has scored a perfect safety rating stretching all the way back to 2013. The NHTSA crash tests were conducted on the Model S in both rear- and all-wheel drive format.
To get IIHS results, we also need to go back a bit, to the 2017 model year. The 2017 Model S earned a “Good” rating in all crash tests, with one exception. That came in the small overlap front/driver side, where the car scored an “Acceptable” rating. Headlight performance was deemed “Poor,” and the Latch anchors were judged to be “Marginal” in terms of accessibility and ease of use.
Like the Model S, the Model X crossover is a five-star performer in NHTSA testing. (Photo: Tesla Motors)
Tesla Model X
Like the Model S, the Model X crossover has routinely scored perfect safety ratings in tests conducted by NHTSA. The 2019 Model X earned a five-star rating in tests carried out on no less than five trim levels of Tesla’s seven-passenger crossover. Every version scored the same perfect rating.
The Tesla Model X has never been crash tested by the IIHS.
The Model 3 is still undergoing testings by the IIHS. It did score five-stars in NHTSA testing, however. (Photo: Tesla Motors)
Tesla Model 3
Like its bigger siblings, the Tesla Model 3 scores a perfect five-star score in NHTSA’s safety ratings. This holds true for the Model 3 in rear- and all-wheel drive format.
For the time being, the jury is out regarding how the Model 3 sedan performs in IIHS crash tests. They are being conducted and we’ll update this story once all tests and scoring are complete. The IIHS has noted the Model 3 earns both a “Good” and “Acceptable” rating for its headlights, depending on when the car was built. Examples built after June 2018 have LED headlights that earn the higher score. The Model 3 also gets a “Superior” rating when it comes to offering active safety features, such as automatic emergency braking and forward collision alert.
The 2020 Kia Soul looks to carry on the previous model year’s impressive crash test ratings. (Photo: Kia)
Kia Soul EV
NHTSA has not carried out crash tests on the updated 2020 Kia Soul, or any tests specifically on the EV model. However, the 2019 model year Soul powered by a gas-fed four-cylinder earned a five-star overall rating.
Things only get better when checking how the Soul performed during the IIHS’ testing. Again, the 2020 model year has not been tested, though it’s worth noting the 2019 Soul registered as a Top Safety Pick+ score, the highest possible rating. This applies to the Soul in gas-powered format when fitted with optional active safety features, along with upgraded LED headlights available on the EX and GT-Line Turbo trims.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric, like some other EVs, is also offered as a Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid. (Photo: Hyundai)
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
The Hyundai Ioniq has not undergone NTHSA crash tests. In terms of IIHS testing, the Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid both received a Top Safety Pick rating, with only a patchy rating for the effectiveness of its headlights holding the car back from scoring even higher. The IIHS has not carried out tests on the Ioniq Electric itself.
The NHTSA and IIHS don’t crash test every single car and truck. A high price and small sales volume mean the Jaguar I-Pace has not undergone crash tests. (Photo: Jaguar)
Due to its relatively high price and lower sales volume, neither NHTSA nor IIHS have carried out crash tests on the Jaguar I-Pace SUV. In July of this year, Jaguar sold a total of 213 I-Pace sport-utilities in the U.S. The starting price for the I-Pace is $70,525, including destination fee.
The BMW i3 can be had fully electric, or with an optional gas-powered 2-cylinder that serves as a range extender. (Photo: BMW)
The BMW i3 has never been crash tested by NHTSA. In tests done by the IIHS, the 2019 i3 scored ratings of “Good” in five out of six crash test scenarios. The BMW registered an “Acceptable” score in both the Head Restraint and Seats crash test, along with the ease of use for its Latch child seat anchors. The i3 can be ordered as a full electric, or with an optional two-cylinder gasoline-powered engine that acts as a range extender.
The Audi E-Tron is the first EV to score a perfect rating in IIHS testing. (Photo: Audi)
Brand new for the 2019 model year, the Audi E-Tron SUV has not been tested by NHTSA.
Yet, when it comes to tests conducted by the IIHS, this Audi is officially the first electric vehicle to score a Top Safety Pick+ rating. The E-Tron earned top marks in all crash tests, along with the highest possible score for its headlights, active safety features, and Latch anchors.
The Honda Clarity Electric has not undergone any crash tests by NHTSA or the IIHS. (Photo: Honda)
Honda Clarity Electric
The Honda Clarity has not been tested by NHTSA or the IIHS.
The Hyundai Kona Electric, seen here, rides on the safety coat-tails of its gas-powered version. (Photo: Hyundai)
Hyundai Kona Electric
The Hyundai Kona Electric hasn’t been specifically tested by NHTSA and the IIHS, but the gas-powered version of this small SUV has registered impressive scores. The gasoline version of the Kona, fitted in both front- and optional all-wheel drive, received a five-star rating by NHTSA.
The IIHS awarded the 2019 Kona – in SE trim level – a Top Safety Pick+ rating, thanks to its perfect scores in all crash tests. The only blemish came with a “Poor” rating affixed to the performance of the halogen projector beam headlamps fitted to the SE and SEL trims. Optional LED headlights scored a “Good” rating.
The Kia Niro Electric is another EV that has gas-powered versions with excellent safety ratings. (Photo: Kia)
Kia Niro Electric
While the Kia Niro Electric has not been singled out for crash tests, NTHSA and the IIHS have given the Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid variants high scores. The Niro earned a five-star overall rating in NHTSA testing.
Things are equally positive in tests performed by the IIHS, which gave both the Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid versions its highest Top Safety Pick+ rating. Had the Niro Electric been tested, it’s possible this small Kia SUV could have beat the Audi E-Tron as being the first EV to earn the highest IIHS rating.
The Volkswagen E-Golf is hard to spot as being the electric variant of the regular 4-door hatchback. (Photo: Volkswagen)
Like some of the other vehicles listed here, the electric version of Volkswagen’s Golf hatchback has not undergone its own round of testing. But the standard gas-powered version in front- and all-wheel drive does score a five-star overall rating by NTHSA. This applies to the sport tuned GTI version, too.
The VW Golf GTI also registered strong scores with the IIHS. The four-door hatch received “Good” ratings in five of six tests, with an “Acceptable” score in the Small Front Overlap/Passenger Side test. A “Poor” rating was given to the halogen headlamps fitted to the S and SE trim levels, however.
Smart is bidding farewell to the U.S. after the 2019 model year. (Photo: Smart)
Smart ForTwo EQ
Smart is leaving the U.S. market completely after the 2019 model year. With this in mind, the 2019 Smart EQ is still available, though this electric-powered variant has not undergone crash tests. NHTSA last tested the gas-powered Smart back in 2017 and gave the tiny city-car four out of five stars.
Fresh from a redesign for the 2017 model year, this is also when the IIHS last put a Smart ForTwo through its crash test regime. The Smart scored “Good” ratings in the two tests conducted, Moderate Overlap Front and Side Impact.
The Fiat 500, including the 500e seen here, is also leaving the U.S. market after the current model year. (Photo: Fiat)
Like Smart, the 2019 model year marks the end of the road for the Fiat 500 in the U.S. This includes the standard model, sporty Abarth trim, and electric-powered 500e model. The last time the Fiat underwent testing by NHTSA was in 2017, when this small city-car earned a four-star overall safety rating.
The IIHS last tested the 500 way back in 2013. Since the 500 had not undergone any substantial changes since that time, the rating applies to the 2012-2019 model years. Despite earning ratings of “Good” in four tests, the 500 notably scored a rating of “Poor” in the Small Overlap Front/Driver Side test. The IIHS reported “the driver door hinges were torn apart and the door opened at the front, which shouldn’t happen because the driver could be partly or completely ejected from the vehicle.”