Earning excellent safety ratings help electric vehicles move even more into the mainstream. The Tesla Model 3 sedan and Audi E-Tron sport-utility are the first full-electric vehicles to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating.
- The Tesla Model 3 has a starting price of $38,990 for the Standard Range Plus model.
- The Model 3 has a driving range of between 240 to 310 miles.
- A range-topping Model 3 Performance model accelerates from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds.
- Next year, Tesla will introduce the Model Y, a SUV that’s based on the Model 3 sedan.
The 2019 Tesla Model 3 electric sedan has scored the highest possible safety rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To earn the Top Safety Pick+ rating, a vehicle has to register a score of “Good” in five physical crash tests, and “Good” or “Acceptable” in the passenger-side small overlap test. The tests include collisions to the front of the vehicle, along the sides, as well as a test to measure the strength of the roof structure during a potential rollover incident.
The Tesla Model 3 scored the highest marks in all of the IIHS crash tests. (Photo: YouTube, IIHS)
Of these crash tests, the most difficult to engineer for is considered to be the front driver and passenger-side small front overlap crash scenarios. These involve a vehicle traveling at 40 mph and hitting a rigid barrier with 25-percent of its front width. This test simulates what might happen if a car hits something like a tree, or a lamppost at high speed. Unlike more traditional frontal crash tests, where the car’s entire front end absorbs the impact, the partial-overlap tests place tremendous forces on a much smaller part of the vehicle’s crash structure. This can cause excessive deformation of the car’s structure, and potentially lead to a higher risk of injury for the front occupants.
The end result of the Model 3 post-crash-testing by the IIHS.( Photo: IIHS)
A vehicle that might pass a frontal crash test with flying colors could fail miserably when it comes to coping with crash forces placed on a narrower section of the structure. That wasn’t the case with the Tesla Model 3, however. The electric luxury sedan scored the highest rating of “Good” in every crash test conducted by the IIHS.
For example, during the driver-side small overlap front test, the IIHS noted an “intrusion of 8 inches at the lower door-hinge pillar contributed to a moderate risk of injury to the driver’s lower leg, as indicated by measures taken from the dummy.” In its findings, the IIHS further added “no other injury risk was recorded, and the front and side airbags and the seat belt worked well to control the dummy’s movement during the crash.”
The Model 3 also earned a “Superior” rating for the effectiveness of its crash prevent systems, such as forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, and top marks for its headlights.
The Model 3 is now the second full-electric vehicle to earn the highest safety score from the IIHS. The 2019 Audi E-Tron sport-utility also recently earned Top Safety Pick+ status. In fact, between the Tesla and Audi, the only point of difference came down to the ease of use of the two vehicles’ Latch child safety seat anchors. The E-Tron holds a slight advantage with its score of “Good,” versus the “Acceptable” rating given to the Latch anchor points in the Model 3.
The Chevrolet Bolt also performed well in IIHS testing. But its headlights received a rating of “Poor” for their excessive glare. (Photo: YouTube, IIHS)
Not far behind is the Chevrolet Bolt, a four-door electric hatchback that scored the second-highest safety rating of Top Safety Pick. According to the IIHS, the only thing that held this electric Chevy back from earning a higher score was the effectiveness of its headlights. These were given a rating of “Poor,” since the IIHS reported the car’s low beams provided excessive glare to oncoming traffic.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Strong safety ratings could help electric vehicles earn a spot on the shopping lists of more car buyers. The Tesla Model 3 and Audi E-Tron help prove that electric cars and SUVs are just as safe – it not more so – than many gas-powered rivals.