The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has dubbed the Long Range RWD Tesla Model 3 as the vehicle with the lowest probability of injury among all cars that the agency has tested so far. The Model 3’s low likelihood of injury rating was given after the vehicle went through the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program, which involves a series of crash tests determining the likelihood of serious passenger injury for front, side, and rollover crashes.
The Model 3’s stellar rating from the NHTSA could be seen as yet another testament to the quality of Tesla’s all-electric cars. Immediately following the Model 3’s scores, after all, are the Model S and Model X, which are currently the vehicles considered by the NHTSA with the second and third lowest probabilities of injury. In a blog post announcing the electric sedan’s safety ratings, Tesla noted that it expects the Dual Motor AWD Model 3 to perform just as well in the NHTSA’s tests as its Long Range RWD sibling.
Part of the reason why the Model 3 is so safe is due to the vehicle’s all-electric design. Tesla opted to place the Model 3’s battery pack, the heaviest component of the vehicle, right at the car’s center of gravity. This gives the Model 3 performance and handling that is almost similar to that of mid-engine vehicles, while allowing the electric sedan to have a near 50/50 weight distribution. Other subtle design tweaks, such as the rear motor being placed slightly in front of the axle, further improve the Model 3’s weight distribution, as well as its overall agility and handling.
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In true Tesla tradition, the Model 3’s all-electric architecture comprises of a sturdy, rigid passenger compartment, a fortified battery pack, and a low center of gravity. Just like its larger siblings, the Model S and X, the absence of an internal combustion engine in front and a fuel tank at the rear give the Model 3 extra large crumple zones, which are optimized to absorb energy and crush more efficiently in the event of an accident.
In the event of a frontal crash, the crumple zone at the front of the vehicle controls the deceleration of occupants, while the Model 3’s advanced restraint systems keep occupants safe in place. Passenger airbags are even specially designed to protect an occupant’s head in the event of an angled or offset crash, while active vents enable the vehicle to adjust the internal pressure of the frontal airbags when deploying. These systems optimize protection based on the specifics of an accident.
The Model 3’s energy-absorbing lateral and diagonal beam structures help occupants safe during pole impact crashes. These structures include a high-strength aluminum bumper beam, a sway bar placed close and forward in front of the car, cross members are the front of the steel subframe that are connected to the main crash fails, as well as diagonal beams in the subframe that distribute energy back to the crash rails when they are not directly impacted. An ultra-high-strength martensitic steel beam is further fitted on the front of the suspension to absorb crash energy from severe impacts.
Tesla also designed the Model 3 with a patented pillar structure and side sills to absorb as much energy as possible in a short distance. Coupled with the vehicle’s rigid body construction and fortified battery architecture, these design elements enable the Model 3 to reduce and prevent compartment intrusion in the event of an accident, while allowing its side airbags to have more space to inflate and cushion occupants.
Just like the Model S and Model X, the Model 3’s low center of gravity plays a key role in keeping the vehicle safe from rollover crashes. That said, even if a rollover does occur, Tesla notes that internal tests have shown that the Model 3 is capable of withstanding roof-crush loads equivalent to more than four times the electric sedan’s weight, far more than the NHTSA’s standards that require cars to withstand three times their own weight.
The Model 3 was recently given a flawless 5-Star Safety Rating in all categories and subcategories by the NHTSA. In a follow-up tweet to the NHTSA’s Model 3 results, Elon Musk noted on Twitter that the electric sedan has a shot at being the “safest car ever tested” by the agency. With the Model 3 being dubbed as the vehicle with the lowest probability of injury by the NHTSA, it appears that Musk’s statement has proven to be accurate.
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It’s not just the NHTSA that has given the Model 3 its approval, either. Earlier this year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit funded by auto insurers aimed at reducing accidents on the road, gave the Model 3 a “Superior” front crash avoidance rating. During the course of its testing, the Model 3 performed well in the crash avoidance and mitigation category, thanks to the vehicle’s Forward Collision Warning, its low-speed autobrake, and its high-speed autobrake systems. The Model 3 was also given a “Recommended” rating by Consumer Reports, after an over-the-air software update reduced the vehicle’s braking distance.
Tesla’s electric cars are known for their performance and their safety. The Model X, for one, also received 5-Star Safety Ratings in all categories and subcategories during the NHTSA’s tests. The Model S, on the other hand, performed so well during the NHTSA’s safety evaluation that the agency’s crash-testing gear broke while it was testing the electric sedan.