Electric Safety All Stars
With the increasing availability of alternative-fuel vehicles, we can't forget about the most important part of a car's design: personal safety. And it's a feature that a national watchdog group is closely monitoring. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted their first crash test of two pioneering electric cars.
The Nissan Leaf all-electric hatchback, and five-door Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car, are quickly becoming mainstream models as plans to sell them nationwide continue to progress.
What IIHS discovered about the Leaf and Volt was both informative and reassuring. Both cars scored the institute's highest rating of good in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes, and earned coveted Top Safety Pick status.
The tests also focus on how the structure around the occupants reacts in crashes. The safety cage must manage crash damage, channeling it away from the occupants.
Results proves automakers are using the same safety engineering in new electric cars as they do in gasoline-powered vehicles, despite demands to save weight and despite having to carry potentially dangerous battery packs.
There was some concern that the battery packs might cause problems in crash worthiness. But the test concluded that the weight and location of the packs might actually be a benefit if the electric car is involved in a crash with a larger vehicle such as a truck or SUV.
These tests were big departure from last year's IIHS crash tests of a pair of low-speed electric vehicles. The test dummies in those crashed recorded data suggesting possible fatal injuries.
For years the concern had been that better fuel economy would reduce personal safety. But with the Leaf and the Volt earning top crash ratings, the debate is over. And that's it for this week's MotorNews.