The electric car company Tesla Motors announced on Monday that one of its cars had received the highest safety rating ever awarded to a vehicle, and that it’s largely thanks to the fact that it’s an electric car.
The Tesla Model S was awarded 5.4 stars on the 5 star scale of Vehicle Safety Scores. That score sets a new record, indicating that the Model S is the safest car among SUVs, sedans, and minivans, the company’s press release states. It goes on to explain that the lack of an engine seriously reduces the risk of injury from a head-on collision:
The Model S has the advantage in the front of not having a large gasoline engine block, thus creating a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high speed impact. This is fundamentally a force over distance problem — the longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries. Just like jumping into a pool of water from a tall height, it is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks. The Model S motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle, and the front section that would normally contain a gasoline engine is used for a second trunk.
The release goes on to explain how the location of the battery makes car rollovers much less likely:
The Model S was also substantially better in rollover risk, with the other top vehicles being approximately 50 percent worse. During testing at an independent facility, the Model S refused to turn over via the normal methods and special means were needed to induce the car to roll. The reason for such a good outcome is that the battery pack is mounted below the floor pan, providing a very low center of gravity, which simultaneously ensures exceptional handling and safety.
This is welcome news for what’s proving to be the most successful electric vehicle on the market. But not everyone will be able to benefit from the resounding success of the Tesla. At a price tag of $60–90,000 per vehicle, the safety that comes from a Model S is far out of reach for the majority of consumers.
What’s more, the car is only as efficient as the system in which it operates. While safety standards are important, the driving factor behind purchasing a Tesla is that it is far more efficient. The only problem is, that might not be true. In a majority of states, fossil fuel is such a large share of electricity generation that it winds up seriously reducing, or even eliminating, the environmental value of driving electric. Only a true dedication from states to increase their renewable energy sources would change this.