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Is the Tesla Model S the safest car ever made?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The electric Tesla Model S might be the safest car ever made. Or, at least one of the safest production cars that the U.S. federal government has ever tested. Frontal crash, side impact, and rollover – the 2013 Tesla Model S 5 HB RWD received a perfect 5-star rating across the board in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests.

And, yes, the battery was just fine in all of the above.

According to Wired, the reason for these high scores lies in large part with the electric drivetrain, which increases the vehicle’s crumple zone space. That, combined with a “stiff structure… [a] battery mounted oh-so-low in the floor” and the Tesla “double bumper” allowed more of the impact to be absorbed by the car, instead of its occupants.

Frontal Crash

Side Impact

Rollover

According to NHTSA simulations (see below), the Tesla Model S has a 5.7% “risk of rollover.”

Photo Credit: photos, videos, and graphics courtesy of the NHTSA.

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. sault 11:19 am 08/26/2013

    The Model S is also safer in the fact that it is not releasing exhaust and nearly as much brakepad dust as a conventional car at ground level where most people would breathe it in. (The reduced brakepad dust comes from regenerative braking where the electric motor is used as a generator to slow the car down while also returning some energy to the batteries at the same time. While cars with regenerative braking still have regular friction brakes for panic stops, most deceleration is still handled by the regenerative system.) Brakepad dust is turning out to be a major health and environmental issue in urban areas and for people living next to highways.

    In addition, the Model S gets 89 MPG equivalent, so it is safer for the planet and for the U.S. economy since we don’t have to import as much oil. The only problem is that it’s a $60k+ car, but other breakthrough technologies like cellphones, personal computers and whatnot are initially luxury goods anyway. While the $60k version has a range of 200 – 230 miles (depending on how you drive it), a new Nissan Leaf can be had for around $20k depending on where you buy it. While it has a range of around 100 miles, most people tend to drive a lot less than this distance for their commuting and errands anyway. And if you can charge up at work, your range effectively doubles up into Model S territory anyway!

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  2. 2. karl 11:16 pm 08/28/2013

    as far as I know, the Tesla has only two problems, one, big people like Schwarzenneger can’t get in, which might be a safety issue if you somehow force yourself in and then crash.

    the second one is the same for every lithium battery, gas buildup and an eventual breakdown (not propperly an explosion because there is little if anything to burn), in the event of a short circuit, (for the Tesla I have understood that the kind of crash needed would be the kind you won’t care too much, either because you are already dead from the impact or because you are willing for the battery to take your suffering away and not pay the insurance and hospital, but that is still a risk.

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  3. 3. LeahWillis 8:00 am 09/4/2014

    Nice blog may be the Tesla cars are the safer cars in market but still we need to take care of them for better out come and also for better fuel efficiency in car. So we just need to select the right service station and professional mechanics for the car, whether you have any car like BMW or Mini cooper etc. http://www.avusautosport.com/services

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