The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released the results of the first-ever U.S. crash test evaluations of plug-in electric cars, with the two EVs earning the highest safety ratings. The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf were awarded the top rating of “good” for front, side, rear and rollover crash protection. Since both cars are fitted as standard with electronic stability control systems, they also qualified as winners of Top Safety Pick, the Institute's award for state-of-the-art crash protection.
"What powers the wheels is different, but the level of safety for the Volt and Leaf is as high as any of our other top crash test performers," says Joe Nolan, the Institute's chief administrative officer.
"The way an electric or hybrid model earns top crash test ratings is the same way any other car does. Its structure must manage crash damage so the occupant compartment stays intact and the safety belts and airbags keep people from hitting hard surfaces in and out of the vehicle," Nolan added.
Classified as compact cars from their exterior dimensions, the Volt and Leaf are closer to midsize and larger cars when it comes to their curb weights, due to their hefty battery packs. At 3,370 pounds (1,529 kg), the Leaf is heavier than the Nissan Altima (3,200 lbs), while the 3,760-pound Volt (1,705 kg) outweighs the Chevrolet Impala (3,580 lbs).
"The Leaf and Volt's extra mass gives them a safety advantage over other small cars. These electric models are a win-win for fuel economy and safety," Nolan says.
Scroll down to see how the IIHS tested both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt.
By Dan Mihalascu