Tesla Model S: So Safe, It Broke NHTSA's Testing Equipment

August 20, 2013

If you're in the market for a new car and safety is your biggest concern, stop reading here and head down to the nearest Tesla (NSDQ:TSLA) showroom gallery for a look at the Model S. According to our colleagues at Green Car Reports, the Model S earned the highest safety score in the history of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In fact, the Model S performed so well, it broke NHTSA's testing equipment.

Many car sites tend to focus on safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but NHTSA conducts its own rigorous battery of tests, too. According to a press release from Tesla, NHTSA "awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception."

NHTSA conducts frontal, rear, and side impact tests, as well as a side pole impact test. You can see a clip of that last test above: though the impact is intense, the Tesla's cabin holds very, very steady. When all the dust and glass had settled, the Model S retained 63.5 percent of its driver residual space. In a Volvo put through the same test, that figure was just 7.8 percent.

But where the Model S really shone was in the rollover test, which determines how likely a vehicle is to flip over, and, when it does, whether its roof can support the weight of the car.

According to Tesla, the Model S performed twice as well as other vehicles on the rollover test. As a matter of fact, NHTSA's normal tests couldn't induce the car to flip, so the agency had to resort to "special means". Tesla credits the sedan's battery pack for that, which gives the Model S a very low center of gravity.

In testing the roof of the Model S, NHTSA's equipment finally met its match: the machinery broke just above the 4g mark. As Tesla explains, "While the exact number is uncertain due to Model S breaking the testing machine, what this means is that at least four additional fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of an owner's car without the roof caving in."

All told, the Model S had a rollover risk of just 5.7 percent. Combined with other factors, that makes the Tesla Model S the safest car in NHTSA's history.

[clip via Cnet


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