One little-noticed aspect of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) new list of the safest 2015 model year vehicles is just how badly electric vehicles did. Not a single electric vehicle earns the Top Safety Pick+ (TSP+) rating.
If the reason for the poor showing by electric vehicles had some relationship to their inherent design, it might be forgivable. However, there is no reason that an EV can’t be just as safe as a conventional car or hybrid. Let’s look at why the top three EVs in the US market cannot earn the TSP+ rating that five Toyota/Lexus hybrids earned and that 71 vehicles in total now proudly advertise.
Tesla Model S – Vapor Ware Safety
If you had to pick any sedan to be in a crash in, the Tesla Model S is your pick. The Model S weighs more than two tons, is so big it can hold seven passengers, and is made so tough that so far no occupant has been killed in one. So why can’t the Tesla Model S earn the industry’s highest safety rating? Of all things software. The TSP+ rating requires that vehicles demonstrate an available Advanced or Superior forward crash prevention system. You see the industry has moved on from just making huge tanks, and now wants the safest cars to stop before the crash happens. Tesla can’t demonstrate Advanced forward collision prevention because, despite all its whiz-bang technology, it does not yet provide safety software as advanced as a Subaru Outback or Honda CRV. On its website Tesla talks the talk, and says that its current vehicles will be able to be retroactively have forward crash prevention, but that it “will take several months for all the features to be completed and uploaded to the cars.”
Nissan Leaf – Fails Electric Utility Pole Crash Test
Ironic isn’t it? The TSP+ rating also requires that a vehicle earn an Acceptable or Good rating on the IIHS’ small frontal overlap test which simulates hitting a utility pole with the front corner of the car. The Nissan Leaf scored a “Poor” rating on this important test. The Leaf is just two years into its design cycle, so those amazing battery breakthroughs we keep hearing about should be ready before the Leaf’s redesign beefs up its structure enough to pass this test.
Chevrolet Volt Gets Booted Off Top Safety List
The Volt used to be a Top Safety Pick+ rated EV. Then the IIHS raised the bar for 2015 and the Volt was one of 15 cars that did not have advanced forward collision prevention. A new Volt is just around the corner, and we suspect that the 2016 will be the next EV to earn the TSP+.
There Is Always The Prius Plug-In
EVangelists hate the Prius Plug-in. Even though it is often the third leading seller of all cars with a plug, the EV mafia can’t stand that it sips about a teaspoon of fuel every 12 miles or so. However, if you want a vehicle with a plug that has the industry’s highest safety rating, can go about 12 miles on electricity alone and then another 300 miles on 6 gallons of gas, the Toyota Prius Plug-in is worth considering.
For the full list of 2015 Top Safety Pick+ rated vehicles please see the IIHS website.