The three-point seat belt was a big step forward in vehicle safety in an era where such issues weren’t generally the highest priority for manufacturers. In a move that would stun and baffle modern corporate interests, Volvo did the world a favor by opening the patent to other manufacturers to improve safety. Eventually public consciousness caught up with automotive safety standards, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was formed.
Throughout years of testing, a select few cars have garnered five-star safety ratings, including, probably not coincidentally, some automobiles built by Volvo. New manufacturer Tesla Motors, co-founded by Elon Musk, whom you may have heard of in connection with SpaceX and the Hyperloop, has received the highest ever safety rating from the NHTSA for its Tesla Model S.
The Tesla Model S is an electric car from a company specializing in electric vehicles. According to the company, the Model S has a range of 300 miles at 55 mph, which is outstanding for an electric car. The Model S is rechargeable, with rates varying on the amount of juice available from the outlet you plug it into. It also has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a modern vehicle.
The NHTSA rates cars up to five in a number of safety areas, but safety levels higher than five can be recorded in the overall Vehicle Safety Score. The Model S received a total of 5.4 stars, setting a new safety record. The entire release about the safety score is extensive, so I’ll just highlight a few areas of interest.
Partially because it is an electric vehicle, front impact testing didn’t suffer from a huge gasoline engine block attempting to move to the front seats. The lack of the block leaves the car with more crumple room to absorb impacts. Side testing placed the Model S in the good category, placing it above the other top 1% of vehicles tested. This success was thanks to aluminum extrusions in the side rail of the car that help absorb impact energy, and was based on technology devised for the Apollo Lunar Lander.
As far as battery safety goes, this is what Tesla Motors had to report:
The Model S lithium-ion battery did not catch fire at any time before, during or after the NHTSA testing. It is worth mentioning that no production Tesla lithium-ion battery has ever caught fire in the Model S or Roadster, despite several high-speed impacts. While this is statistically unlikely to remain the case long term, Tesla is unaware of any Model S or Roadster occupant fatalities in any car ever.
Below you’ll find a fairly extensive video overview of the Model S.
Source: Tesla Motors