How electric cars are crash tested to get the best safety ratings

How electric cars are crash tested to get the best safety ratings

How electric cars are crash tested to get the best safety ratings

This story is part Branch, CNET’s hub for all things electric vehicles and the future of electrified mobility. From vehicle reviews to helpful tips and the latest industry news, we’ve got you covered.

Electric cars are different in many ways and one of them is the way they crash. But are they better or worse than a conventional car?

A Tesla Model 3 during IIHS crash tests. It earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating, although the IIHS noted that the bottom of its A-pillar bent about 8 inches rearward.


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the most well-known assessor of vehicle safety, recently developed the building where it plants cars to ensure it can handle heavier cars up to 9,500 books. That’s well above the average new car weight of 4,100 pounds, but barely enough to test a 9,100-pound electric Hummer pickup and the presumably heavier electric Hummer SUV that will arrive in the spring of 2023. Even the relatively slender Volvo EX90 weighs 6,200 pounds, the Mercedes EQS 6,000 pounds, and a Tesla Model S sedan can reach 4,800 pounds.

The hummer EV pickup’s huge “skateboard” allows it to weigh 9,063 pounds, 2.2 times more than the average new car.


All that lard is a good thing if it surrounds you in a crash: heavier cars tend to push lighter cars, transferring less energy to the occupants of the heavier car. And EVs carry their extra bulk down, giving them a low center of gravity that resists rollovers.

The best-selling electric cars enjoy an enviable track record in IIHS safety ratings: the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y both get a Top Safety Pick+, as does the Hyundai Ioniq5 and Kia EV6. The Ford Mustang Mach-E falls just short of a standard Top Safety Pick, in part because of its mediocre standard headlights.

The IIHS subjects electric cars to the same crash tests as conventional cars: full frontal crash, various overlap crashes, roof integrity tests, all rated based on how well a car protects occupants in each scenario. As with all cars tested, the maximum collision speed for an electric vehicle is 40 MPH; If crash-test carnage sounds like something you wouldn’t want to be a part of, imagine it 33% faster with impact forces that increase as the square of that speed increases.

At 4,025 pounds, a 1990 Lincoln Town Car was a real heavyweight, but with today’s trend toward trucks, SUVs, and electric vehicles, the Lincoln’s weight is pretty light than average.


The IIHS reports that injury claims related to electric vehicle drivers and passengers are more than 40% lower than what was seen among occupants of conventional cars from 2011 to 2019, a trend similar to HLDI data. on hybrid vehicles. Besides their heavier weight, electric cars are generally more modern and high-tech, making them more likely to have the latest collision avoidance and survivability technologies.

The EVs have a charge during their IIHS test, but the organization says there has never been an EV fire or thermal runaway as a result of a crash test. Its study of vehicle fires in fatal car crashes from 2009 to 2014 found a similar rate between conventional and electric vehicles. That said, the IIHS separates freshly crashed EVs; There are many stories of electric vehicles catching fire long after a collision, but it’s probably overkill since we barely notice the more than 170,000 combustion car fires every year.

If it was a gasoline engine car, no one would care.

Screenshot by Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Conclusion: You probably want to be in an electric vehicle during a collision to benefit from its higher weight, lower center of gravity, new safety technologies and a fire risk that is not particularly superior to that of cars carrying a large tank of flammable liquid.


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