The IIHS conducted crash tests using the latest EV and plug-in hybrid vehicles with the coveted Top Safety Pick rating still eluding the Tesla Model S.
Back in 2011 the electric sedan bested NHTSA’s crash score, earning a perfect 5 stars. In 2013 Tesla boasted that it had the best crash test ratings ever for a new car on the new scale. But the IIHS performs very different kinds of tests and awards ratings on more than just crash safety.
In the IIHS results, the 2017 Model S scored “Good” (the top of four ratings) in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint and seats tests. Where the sedan stumbled was in small overlap front crash test, where it earns an acceptable rating.
A major point of concern for the Model S is with its safety belts, which according to the IIHS, allowed the crash dummy to move too far forward, hitting its head on the steering wheel through the airbags. The IIHS notes that “that injuries to the head, along with the lower right leg, would be possible in a real-world crash of the same severity.”
The range topping P100D variant of the Model S was also only rated as acceptable in roof strength tests. Because the rating is based on a strength-to-weight ratio, and the P100D is heavier due to a larger battery, it earned an acceptable rating.
There’s more to an IIHS safety rating than just crash tests. The Model S wasn’t able to participate in the crash prevention tests, because Tesla has disabled these features on new cars. These features are essential in awarding a car the Top Safety Pick + rating. The IIHS also criticized the headlights of the EV.
As a result the Model S can’t tout the coveted Top Safety Pick, or Top Safety Pick + Rating. Other vehicles tested by the IIHS in this round include the BMW i3 and Toyota Prius Prime. The Prius Prime earned the institutes top award, while the BMW i3 came up lacking in head restraint and seat evaluations.
“There’s no reason the most efficient vehicles can’t also be among the safest,” says IIHS executive vice president David Zuby. “We hope Tesla and BMW will continue to refine the designs of their electric models to maximize driver protection and, especially in the case of Tesla, improve their headlights.”
The Chevrolet Volt was noted for having a Top Safety Pick + rating already, and the IIHS plans to test the new Chevy Bolt EV later this year.