Tesla Model S tops US crash ratings

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Tesla’s Model S has been awarded the highest safety rating of any vehicle ever put through independent crash testing by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The Model S picked up a five-star result not just overall but in every sub-category. These cover frontal collision, side pole intrusion, rear collision, roll-over risk and roof crush protection.

Some of the results were simply bizarre. In roll-over testing, the car refused to play ball. Owing to the considerable weight of its broad underfloor battery pack, the car wouldn’t roll under the force of conventional testing gear.

Testers had to find new ways to persuade it to roll at all. At no point before, during or after testing did the battery catch fire, the company added in its statement.

In the event of a rollover, vehicle roofs need extra reinforcement to prevent collapse. To that end, the Model S’s massive B-pillar reinforcements are secured by aerospace grade bolts – enough to ensure the car’s survival against everything the crush machinery could give it. The NHTSA crusher eventually gave out at a little over 4g.

Crash protection for passengers in the optional third row of seating passed in highway-speed impacts thanks to the double bumper Tesla installs as part of the option deal.

Up front, the Model S benefits from the absence of an engine block. This gives the car an abnormally long crumple zone, opening up more time for the vehicle to absorb frontal shock.

In side pole intrusion testing, the Model S claimed the only “good” rating among the top one per cent of vehicles tested. The key to its success lies in the series of extruded aluminium impact points buried in the side rails. They’re designed to, at worst, disseminate the force of side impact through the rest of the body. At best, they will stop the pole’s progress into the bodywork and even use the car’s mass and momentum to shear it off.

Tesla has put no shortage of work into achieving its result, the company’s statement adds: “After verifying through internal testing that the Model S would achieve a NHTSA five-star rating, Tesla then analysed the Model S to determine the weakest points in the car and retested at those locations until the car achieved five stars no matter how the test equipment was configured.”

In its statement, Tesla said that it knows of no occupant deaths in either the Model S or the Roadster that preceded it – although, it added, “this is statistically unlikely to remain the case long-term.”

On the enduring question of when Australians might see the Model S, Tesla Asia Pacific spokeswoman Atsuko Doi says the company is now set to start deliveries Down Under in the second quarter of next year – up to a year after it was originally due on sale here.

Responding to claims that Australian buyers who’ve dropped deposits on the car have been told to expect their cars early in the new year, she said it’s more likely to be the southern autumn before they arrive.

“We’ve been taking deposits since 2009, so there’s nothing new about that,” she told motoring.com.au. “But as of last week, it’s come on stream for right-hand drive countries, so we’ll start delivery in April, May or June (2014).”

Story by Jeremy Bass, as seen on www.motoring.com.au

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Whilst MRT does't do much with any electric/hybird vehicles at this point, beyond log book services and the odd suspension and brake upgrade, we do appreciate advances in automotive engineering. Hats off to Tesla Motors for a new take on how to design a car for safety ratings, as well as for causing the testers to up their game.

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