NHTSA reacts on Tesla boast over Model S safety ratings

Article by Anita Panait, on August 28, 2013

The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that it does not rate vehicles beyond 5 stars and does not rank or order vehicles within the star rating categories. NHTSA posted the statement on the front page of its Web site this week after Tesla said that its Model S electric sedan "achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars" based on a formula it said the regulators supplied.

NHTSA recently awarded five-star ratings to the 2013 Tesla Model S following frontal, side, rear and rollover crash tests. The Model S received an overall score of five stars.

The feat was considered as impressive for any carmaker, especially that Tesla only started building cars a few years ago. Tesla, however, further boasted this week that it received the "best safety rating of any car ever tested," citing a mathematical formula that NHTSA supplies to carmakers.

Tesla said in a statement that the Model S broke the testing machine during a roof crush test at an independent testing facility, thanks to a strengthened B-pillar that uses aerospace grade bolts."

NHTSA pointed to its rules for advertising of crash-test results, which discourage the use of "potentially misleading words such as 'perfect,' 'safest,' 'flawless' or 'best in class' to describe the star rating received by the vehicle."

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk remarked during a July interview with Bloomberg that the Model S would get "six- or seven-star ratings" if the government's ratings went that high. Although Tesla may not face any serious consequences for its claims, it would be better not to pick fights with the people who write the rules for vehicle safety.

While the Tesla Model S is indeed the first sedan to be fully powered with electricity, it also offers the longest range for this type of vehicle. This same model also manages to combine efficiency, safety, and performance. It is safe to say that the Model S is a good example of how automotive engineering can be evolved. In addition to offering the highest of safety ratings possible, this latest offering from Tesla allows over-the-air software updates to improve the model even more.

All of these combined result in the Model S changing the expectations for 21st century cars. Utilizing the brand’s very own platform, the battery has been placed on the floor. This results in the Model S having a low center of gravity which means that while performance and handling are improved, the possibility of a rollover from occurring is minimized.

Since there is no engine to speak of, the crumple zone of the Model S is larger compared to those in many performance sedans. This means that it can absorb more energy in the event of an impact on the front end. Indeed, the placement of the electric drivetrain under the car is the main reason why this model is one of the safest there is on the road.

As mentioned, the lower center of gravity means that rollover risk is reduced. The safety record of the model includes having the lowest possibility of occupants from being injured. This was confirmed during testing done in the U.S. The Model S has also been given a 5-star safety rating from NHTSA and even the Euro NCAP. It is not just about the placement of the battery as the Model S contains a number of active safety system fitted as standard.

These include emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and automatic emergency braking. There are also convenience features, though offered as an option, that include autopark, autosteer, traffic-aware cruise control, and summon.

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