Tesla Model S Gets Five Stars For Crash Safety From NHTSA

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The Tesla Model S electric sedan has become the latest car to be awarded a full five star crash test rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

While it's no surprise for modern cars to score highly in such tests, it's still an impressive feat for a young automaker like Tesla Motors, which hasn't had previous decades of safety technology development to call upon.

The Model S scored a full five stars in frontal crash, side crash and rollover tests, for a five-star rating overall.

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

It means the Model S joins more established vehicles such as the 2013 Kia Optima, Honda Accord and Volvo S60 in scoring maximum marks in all impact tests.

The videos above and below (via the Tesla Motors Club forum) show the Model S undergoing frontal impact, side impact and side pole impact testing, with minimal cabin intrusion and the car's wealth of airbags all firing as they should.

MORE TESLA:  All-Wheel-Drive Tesla Model S In The Pipeline: Report 

Like watching a Model S torn apart by the jaws of life it'll make uncomfortable viewing for Tesla fans--but owners and fans alike will be glad to see that Tesla's highly-rated Model S is as safe as any other similarly-sized car on the road.

[Hat tip: Thomas Fisher]


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Comments (33)
  1. I'm completely distracted by something irrelevant. Are those solar panels in the bottom video right near the impact area?

  2. The even odder thing is that you would think that these panels would be in danger of being hit by flying debris being so close to the collision area.

  3. I think it is a mirror to reflect sunlight into the car to get a better exposure on the video. Similar to mirrors or reflective screens used on movie sets and photo shoots.

  4. Impressive. I was a little surprised to see how easily the rear view mirror became detached from its mountings in the side impact crash.

  5. They might want to put in a sturdier clip.

    But I do love to watch these collisions. They underline the importance of having side and curtain airbags.

  6. I always try to look both ways on a green light for a reason…

  7. Holy cow! I figured it would be good, but drill down into the rollover data.
    Some of the best sedans are rated at a 9% chance of rollover, the best sports cars at 8%. The Model S came in at 5.7%!

  8. That's what happens when you attach a 1200 lb. weight to a car's floorpan.

    But think about this: getting hit by one of these Teslas would be like getting hit by a tank. A nearly 4000 lb. car would take out just about anything given its low profile. I would suspect in most cases it would just go underneath anything short of a tractor trailer.

  9. This is the first crash vehicle I have seen that releases the rear seat cushion. It goes flying about the rear cabin in the frontal crash. Weird.

  10. I know. Seems like that would be unpleasant if you sat in the back. But at least we know that the Model S has easily adjustable seats, I spent forever trying to get my rear seats down. That is when I discovered that they do not move and that there is a cardboard barrier to the truck, makes no sense to me…

  11. Actually, the NHSTA tampered with the seats to install their equipment. The seats came off due to the tampeting

    Here is what they did to the seats:

  12. Compare the intrusion of the pole in the Tesla collision to the Ford Focus Electric. Although the FFE received a five star rating also, note how the structure of the Tesla withstood far better in terms of intrusion. This is the best example of how a large car can maintain structural integrity while a small car deforms to a greater degree.

  13. It isn't just the size of the car -- in fact, a larger car has more momentum to stop all the rest of the car with the tiny pole. Instead, I think it shows how much sturdier the Model S cabin is, and how the battery helps make the floor sturdy. Both the floor and ceiling in the Focus buckled, and the shot where they rotate it while suspended shows the pole indented at least a foot. If that is a 5-star result, I would hate to be in a car with a 4-star or worse result.

  14. Here is a Tesla Model S leveling a utility pole:


  15. Larger (heavier) is a disadvantage here. What matters is materials strength and structural design. A heavier car means more weight the structure has to bear and bring to a stop without losing integrity. That makes is much more impressive that the Tesla performed so well.

  16. Great job, Tesla.

    But I wasn't expecting any less... An expensive luxury sports sedan should be 5-stars. I wouldn't take it with any less...

  17. How about a $55K BMW 535i and a four-star frontal? But interestingly, I can't find any large luxury cars that have been rated by the NHTSA.

  18. $55k 535i is NOT in the same league as Model S. It is also lighter and cheaper.

    With that crash results, there is NO way that I am buying it...

  19. Actually, the 5-series was the benchmark used when designing the Model S. The base model of the Model S isn't much more (and was less when they offered a 40kWh battery). Likewise, the GenIII is intended to be comparable to the 3-series on price, performance, and size.

  20. When you designed something to be the BEST CAR in the world and you claim that to the entire world, I wouldn't expect any less, especially NOT from the Elon Musk.

    This is like saying that a Volvo that doesn't have 5-star crash rating.

    If it is the BEST car, then it should be the BEST in everything. So far, it is the best car. I just can't afford it.

  21. From the linked story above: "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"

  22. From Tesla: "Tesla and NHTSA confirm that significant lifting of the second row seat pan upon impact as seen in the video of NCAP frontal crash testing is not a normal occurrence on Model S. Instead, this anomaly is due to the placement and installation of sensors, cables, cameras and other test equipment used to document the NCAP testing. During this process, the test facility partially removed the second row seat pan and did not fully reinstall it. This partial removal had no effect whatsoever on NHTSA’s NCAP test results. Normally, under non-testing conditions, the Model S second row seat is locked into place with a series of clips and fasteners. The second row seat pan will not lift in the event of a crash."

  23. http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/19915-NHTSA-crash-tests-results-videos

  24. Thanks Laura. I thought that seemed really weird. I'm surprised that the NHTSA wouldn't make sure that everything was bolted down. Now, about that flying rear view mirror....

  25. Passenger car rear view mirrors are required to break away on impact. Perhaps the rapid deceleration of the NHTSA crash test is enough to trigger this?

  26. The way the side impact is done is odd. The pull should fly at the car, not the other way around. I would think the car's weight would impact the results.

  27. Watch the 2nd video on this page...

    *sigh*, kids these days....

  28. I noticed that video afterwards. I don't know why you are always an ass, but you have got me quite annoyed today. I wish the "Notify me when there are more comments" worked for me, you always seem to reply.

  29. @Randy: We will soon launch a revised comment system, so with luck whatever issue you have with notification will be resolved. I presume you've already checked your Spambox?

  30. I am always an "ass" to an "ass" or BEV elitist. Remember, look back at all your comments, you were the first "ass" to fire the first shot. Don't dish it out if you can't take it.

  31. @Xiaolong: Do not respond to being baited or called names. Let the site moderators take care of commenters who step over the line, please.

  32. @Randy: Missed this the first time. Please don't call other commenters names. We encourage robust discussion; we don't want name-calling, and work to discourage it and if necessary delete such comments or ban the commenters.

    I've warned two other frequent commenters about this, and should have seen this when you first posted it. Please: NO NAME-CALLING.

  33. The pole test is meant to simulate loosing control and sliding off the road into a tree or pole. So yes, the car's momentum does impact the results, just as it would if you hit a tree.

    The side impact test is meant to simulate getting t-boned in an intersection (the angle simulates the fact that you would be moving forward when you got hit).

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