When it comes to big car brands, Tesla is the new kid on the block. The car company got its start in the mid-2000s and only began selling mass-market cars in 2012. But in the last nine years, the upstart automaker has gone from strength to strength. And now it is contending for the most valuable car company in the world, thanks to its incredible level of innovation.
Safety has always been a priority for Tesla. Even from the start, Elon Musk touted how battery-powered cars were naturally advantaged compared to their gas-guzzling cousins. Unlike regular vehicles, electric cars have a low center of gravity (owing to their battery packs), giving the vehicles excellent cornering capabilities and reducing the risk that they will rollover.
Since then, though, Tesla has been busy. And it recently announced that the Model Y would be the safest vehicle in the SUV class.
Tesla’s Safety Performance
When it comes to safety, Musk’s company has a good pedigree. Both the Model S and Model X achieved a 5-star safety rating from international agencies. And then later, the less expensive Model 3 also got top marks for its abilities to protect passengers in the cabin, receiving a higher score than any other vehicle in the history of testing.
Now, Tesla is celebrating similarly impressive results for the Model Y. Two years after Tesla’s grand unveiling of the vehicle, the budget SUV achieved a five-star safety record in every category tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It was the first time that any electric SUV vehicle had achieved a perfect score.
The Model Y, for instance, scored highly in rollover testing, displaying the lowest rollover risk of any SUV produced by any company ever. The brand achieved this by placing the heavy battery pack in the base of the vehicle, keeping the center of mass as close to the ground as possible.
To put this achievement into perspective, the Model Y has around half of the rollover risk of the Volvo XC60 – widely considered to be the safest SUV mass-production vehicle ever created.
Tesla has even released videos of its vehicles displaying incredible rollover resistance. For instance, you can watch demonstrations of side-crash safety testing of the Model X showing how it is nearly impossible to get the vehicle to roll. When impacted from the side, the car rolls onto the doors but then quickly corrects itself. The battery pack provides the weight needed to return it to all four wheels.
Frontal Crash Performance
Highway safety testing agencies usually test frontal collisions by driving vehicles at an immovable wall at 35 mph. The goal is to simulate the effects of crashing headlong into a bollard in city driving conditions. Most vehicles actually score quite poorly on this test, but not the Model Y. When safety testing agencies measured it, again they found that it offered the best performance in its class.
Why is this?
The reason comes back to the location of the engine. In a regular car, the combustion engine sits under the hood. So during a frontal impact, both the car’s body and then engine bay take the brunt of the impact.
The engine itself, however, doesn’t have crumple zones built into it. So when a regular car hits an object head-on, it has to absorb the impact around the sides of the vehicle. It does this to prevent the engine compartment from shunting into the cabin and injuring the passengers.
But in the Model Y, there is no large engine taking up space. There isn’t even a radiator. Instead, engineers can turn the entire front of the vehicle into a kind of giant bumper to deflect energy.
The result? A 5-star-rated vehicle that is safer than practically any other on the road.
What Else Makes The Model Y So Safe?
Safety testers also discovered a bunch of other features and facets that contributed to the overall stunning safety of the Model Y. One of these was the strength of the vehicle’s chassis.
Tesla built the Model Y around the Model 3 platform. The vehicle is essentially the same, except that it has much more interior cabin space, just like most SUVs.
When Tesla was designing the car, they wanted to improve on some of the minor shortfalls of the Model 3. So they decided to add extra reinforcements to the sidewalls, door sections, and skirts of the chassis. These changes allowed them to account for the higher mass of the vehicle while fortifying and strengthening the cabin,
During collisions, this allows the Model Y to distribute forces around the outside of the passengers and not through the cabin itself, protecting them from the worst of the impact. There are crumple zones on all sides, decelerating incoming objects no matter which direction they hit the car.
The Model Y also features some of the world’s largest castings plus a fortified accident pack.
Occupants will still need to go to a car accident lawyer after a crash. Tesla isn’t saying that the vehicle is bomb-proof. But, as in so many areas, the upstart car company is improving on the efforts of traditional carmakers and creating something that will inspire massive confidence on the road.
Electronic Safety Gadgets
Lastly, Tesla is going to equip the Model Y with its latest and greatest electronic safety equipment – something that has made the car company famous. Not only will the vehicle get the latest version of autopilot, but it will also come with various crash avoidance and pedestrian protection systems. Additional technologies include lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking (to prevent shunting cars in front), and even potentially a drowsiness warning.
All these changes combined mean that the Model Y will likely be the safest vehicle to ever hit the road. Yet despite all these advances in technology, there hasn’t been much fanfare. Tesla continues to break records and improve the auto industry for consumers, and yet we still hear very little about the company. It feels like a conspiracy.