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Tesla Model S achieves best ever crash test score

Recently launched in Europe but as yet untested by Euro NCAP, the Model S achieved the full five stars in all areas tested by the NHTSA, which is only matched by 1% of vehicles on sale in the United States.

A lot of the safety benefits come from its electric drivetrain. Because the electric motor is at the rear axle, the Model S has no large components in its front crumple zone allowing more time to slow the vehicle in an impact. In NHTSA testing, this is conducted at 35mph.

Its battery pack is flat and located under the cabin floor, resulting in a centre of gravity so low that the NHTSA had to employ new methods to make it roll over. Tesla claims four fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of the car’s roof before it caved in.

The Model S also performed well in side impact tests, retaining 63.5% of the driver’s residual space after a collision with a pole. Aluminium extrusions, similar to those used in Apollo Lunar Landers, are used to absorb the impact and distribute it through the bodyshell.

To date, the Model S is claimed to be the only car in the top safety percentile to achieve a ‘good’ rating in this test – the five-star rated Volvo S60 retained 7.8% of the driver’s residual space in the same collision.

Unlike European crash tests, the NHTSA tests rear end collision protection. The Model S is available with a third row of seats in some markets, and cars fitted with these are also equipped with a double rear bumper to protect occupants from ‘disabling injuries’ in highway collisions.

Alex Grant

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