How Do Electric Cars Perform in Crash Tests?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a United States governmental organization that crash tests vehicles and rates them on a scale of one to five stars. According to Greenstein & Milbauer, the most common types of car accidents are:
- Head-on collisions
- Rear-end accidents
- T-bone crashes
- Sideswipe accidents
We know how well traditional vehicles perform under these conditions, but what do the crash test ratings have to say about electric vehicles? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a private organization that performs similar test and rates vehicles as poor, marginal, acceptable, or good. Both organizations perform crash tests on the majority of electric car models. Both organizations give most electric vehicles high marks. Below is some information on some of the standard crash tests they perform.
The NHTSA performs head-on-collision tests, simulating two vehicles traveling at 35mph. Test dummies that are wearing standard seatbelts measure forces to the body during impact. These types of collisions statistically represent the most auto fatalities. All of the tested electric vehicles received high ratings for this test.
The IIHS does not perform this exact test. Instead, they perform frontal-crash overlap tests at 40mph by crashing into a solid barrier. Only about 25 percent of the front of the car is hit during this test. All electric vehicles received high ratings for this test from both organizations.
Typically, drivers don’t see a rear-end accident coming. Although this type of accident usually isn’t as deadly as head-on collisions, many injuries can occur, such as concussions, broken bones, brain injuries, or herniated discs. The NHTSA typically does not reveal the results of rear-end crash tests to the public. The IIHS performs this test with the vehicle’s seat mounted to a moving sled that simulates the car being hit in the rear at 20mph. The head-restraint design provides the best protection for this type of crash. Most electric vehicles were at least adequate for this test.
Liberty Mutual Insurance explains, “The NHTSA performs this test by hitting the vehicle from the side with a 3,000-pound vehicle moving at a speed of 38.5mph. They also run a second side-impact test that measures the chance of injury if the vehicle has a side impact with a pole at 20mph.” The IIHS uses a large SUV-style barrier to impact the vehicle from the side at 31mph for this test. Electric cars were awarded high marks for this test from both organizations.
The NHTSA does not perform this exact test. The IIHS conducts a moderate-overlap front test where a large side of the vehicle swipes a barrier. They also perform a small-overlap test where one side of the bumper hits a car or another object. This test is historically difficult for most vehicles of all types to score a top rating on. That difficulty is partly because the front crumple zones don’t run across the full front of the car due to wheel and suspension design requirements. Most electric vehicles received at least acceptable ratings for this test.
In closing, electric vehicles have good overall crash ratings that meet or exceed their gasoline counterparts. There are many ways that electric cars are improving all the time so even in just a few years we may have even safer and smarter cars than we could even imagine.