Are Electric Vehicles Inherently Safer Than ICE?


Model S Side Pole Impact

Model S Side Pole Impact

“A longer crumple zone means there’s a longer period of time in which the crash is unfolding.  The vehicle can slow down over a longer period of time, which benefits the people inside.”

Model S Crash Test Frontal

Model S Crash Test Frontal

Those are the words of Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who was commenting on the successful testing of the Tesla Model S.

Here’s what Tesla says:

“The Model S has the advantage in the front of not having a large gasoline engine block, thus creating a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high speed impact. This is fundamentally a force over distance problem – the longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries. Just like jumping into a pool of water from a tall height, it is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks.”


Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Gets 4 Stars Overall

Okay, so that explains why the Model S is safe in frontal crashes, but most of today’s electric vehicles still have “rocks” in the engine bay area, yet the majority of them still score well in overalls safety and most even beat out their near-identical gas-fueled siblings (i.e. Smart Fortwo Electric Drive versus ICE Smart).  What explains this?

As Rader states:

“It’s simple laws of physics.  If you’re in a crash between a heavier vehicle and a lighter one the heavier vehicle will perform better than a lighter one.”

That’s Rader’s way of saying that the added weight of the lithium-ion battery pack makes the typical electric vehicle safer than its non-electric counterpart.  So, in this way, it seems electric vehicles are then inherently safer than ICE, at least when its an apples-to-apples comparison (i.e. Ford Focus Electric versus ICE Focus or Honda Fit EV versus ICE Fit).

Source: Christian Science Monitor

Categories: Crashed EVs, General

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11 Comments on "Are Electric Vehicles Inherently Safer Than ICE?"

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Ok, one more negative turned into a positive. I was going to despair over going from a 2500lb xB (superior ’06 classic version) to a 3300lb LEAF, but now I know I can look down on the lower-massed paeons in their gas cars as if I were driving a crossover (but using 1/4 the energy).


(Just occurred to me that the LEAF is only as heavy as the newer ugly gas-guzzling ’08 and newer Scion xB. Man they ruined the xB.)


Electric vehicles are safer for the occupants and dangerous towards all other cars on the road lol funny how that works also the smart ed crash never seizes to amaze me small size, no front end and it holds up that well…. well done mercedes engineers


It doesn’t do well because it has only four stars at a lower rated crashed test specially adapted to make small front cars look like they are safe.
If you change the standard there is no comparison possible.

Jesse Gurr

The front of an EV is still a crumple zone because of the power electronics not being all that strong. An engine is pretty sturdy and power electronics are not.


They may all start to become lighter like the 2,700 lb BMW I3…



Remind me again why Coda tested so terribly? It was only a year or so ago that this site was commenting on its terribly crash test scores…

Jesse Gurr

Probably just forgot it existed just like I did just now until i read your post.


I don’t know a less discriminatory way of saying this, so here goes:

Because the Coda is Chinese.

The Chinese make terrible, terrible cars.

Dan Hue

Why would a heavier car be safer, everything else being identical? That does not make sense to me. For example, I don’t think I am safer in my Volt with 4 occupants and luggage than alone and cargo free.

Dan Hue

BTW, this was in response to Electric’s comment, not the article!