Tesla Model S receives top marks in NHTSA safety testing


August 21, 2013

Tesla's Model S has achieved a 5 star NHTSA safety rating  (Photo: NHTSA)

Tesla's Model S has achieved a 5 star NHTSA safety rating (Photo: NHTSA)

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Tesla is continuing its winning streak in 2013, this time not on the stock market but in the crash test evaluation of its Model S. The Model S has outsold its closest luxury competitors and expert reviews have ranked the car as one of the best on the road. So what does it do for an encore? It breaks records in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash rating system ... and a roof crushing machine.

Tesla reports that the all-electric sedan received a 5 stars in every NHTSA category. Only 1 percent of all manufacturer vehicles achieve a five star rating and the NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5. However safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers. The S scored a record 5.4 VSS rating and set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants.

The test scores are based on figures obtained during front, side, rear and rollover incidents. Tesla’s high front collision score was achieved in part due to its large front crumple zone. With no massive gas/diesel engine up front, the Model S’ front hood becomes more effective in diffusing energy because the entire zone being dedicated to safeguarding occupants.

In side collision tests, the Model S managed to maintain 63.5 percent of the driver’s residual space. Tesla points out that the Volvo S60 (also 5-star rated) only reached 7.8 percent for the same test. Rear collision tests were also above average thanks to Tesla’s addition of a second bumper, which is installed when the third row children's seat option is ordered.

An exact figure for roof testing isn't available, as the testing machine failed at just over 4 g's of force. Tesla says that that based on the 4 g plus figure, the car could theoretically piggyback four Model S’ to and from its Palo Alto facilities without fear of the roof collapsing. Tesla attributes this roof strength to a reinforced B-pillar utilizing aerospace grade bolts to shore up the center.

Continuing to be stubborn, the Model S also refused to cooperate in the rollover test. A customized method had to be developed to flip the Model S, which speaks for itself. The reason for the flip aversion is due in part to Tesla’s 1,000 lb (454 kg) low mounted battery pack, in combination with the car’s hefty 4,647.3 lb (2,108 kg) curb weight.

Having just test driven the Model S this past weekend I can attest to the car’s performance and build quality, but fortunately I didn't get to put the impressive new safety ratings to the test. Watch for our Model S drive review later this week.

Sources: Tesla , NHTSA

About the Author
Angus MacKenzie Born on the cold, barren Canadian plains of Calgary, Alberta, Angus MacKenzie couldn’t decide between marketing, automotives or an entrepreneurial path - so he chose all three. With an education in automotives and marketing, Angus has rebuilt the carburetor on his 1963 Rambler Ambassador twice, gotten a speeding ticket in an F430 once, and driven & photographed everything from Lamborghinis to Maseratis to various German and Asian designs. When not writing, Angus has for the past six years been Editor-in-Chief for elemente, an internationally recognized architecture/design magazine. All articles by Angus MacKenzie

Beautiful machine. Shame about the weight. Hanging out for the modular battery pack you can swap out at home.


It would be really cool if it did not cost so much. I think they did an excellent job on safety and looks.


70k for a luxury car that does not need gas seems like pretty cheap cost to me... Cost you as much as any other luxury pretty much after the 7.5k usa gas credit.

Volvo was an a bit cheaper of a lux car but I don't like their new Chinese direction.. I am interested to see where Tesla goes. Decent price for a new model/new type of car - Pricing will only get better.

Chad Valentine

Concerning price...what you're getting here is true $80K car, not a $25K car with $15K added for batteries as in the Leaf. It could hold it's own against any other $70K-$100K car out there even if it was gas powered.

Jeff King

Tesla are on ball with design and marketing!!! They are conquering the USA before branching internationally aggressively. No need for battery swaps - it's primary range, upgradable to 300miles, should do most people over and over. Supercharge to 80% capacity in 30 minutes, thats 240 miles - 330km and I need a coffee before that! They hope to have the recharge time down to 10minutes by mid 2014. Also, they have battery swap facilities now. By end of 2013 the swaps and superchargers should be from LA to NY and by the end of 2015 they are aiming for 98% coverage of USA with these facilities. No excuse about range anxiety by then!!! It's great to watch - only I wish I could afford the early adopter price lol


Give it a propulsion system worth owning and I would be interested.


Not to worry, oil-boy, they offer an extremely reasonable leasing option.

Fritz Menzel

Great knowledge of da FACTS "RaVOLT and Fritz ! Also next year the SUV style model X comes out with Gull Wing doors and then a Car priced in the $30's . Tesla owners do not have to pay to charge the car at stations . You can lease a charge station for home ( etc ) and sell unused power back to the Power Co. There are Tax refunds both State and Fed ( State Tax refunds in GA $12,500 , VA $15,000 and $7,500 Fed (?) ) And I think they send the Tesla " Angles " to your location for scheduled check ups ( ? ) In a few years who knows what the Batteries will weight and they might look like Living Aquariums .........


I hope that Mr. Elon Musk was watching his baby while it put the safety machines through their paces! Congratulations Mr. Musk for successfully becoming a permanent competitor in the automobile industry. I hope to contribute to your company soon by buying your cars.

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