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US highway agency awards Tesla Model S RECORD safety score

'Sure, 5 is the highest possible NHTSA rating, but we deserve a 5.4'

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Champagne corks are likely popping in the corner offices of Tesla Motors in celebration over the carmaker's Model S sedan achieving the highest safety rating ever awarded in the US.

"Independent testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception," Tesla crowed in a release announcing the safety rating.

Tesla goes on to note that although the NHTSA doesn't award any ratings higher than 5, an even higher safety rating can be tabulated by examining that agency's more-detailed Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) numbers provided to manufacturers. According to those scores, Tesla claims that the Model S rates an NHTSA rating of 5.4.

The Model S, Tesla says, achieved NHTSA ratings higher than not only other sedans, but also SUVs and minivans in testing for the possibility of injury in all type of smashups: front, side, rear, and rollovers.

Tesla notes that the Model S has a distinct advantage over sedans with front-mouted engines in that its relatively small motor is in the rear, allowing the car's entire front to be used as a "second trunk" and therefore a longer crumple zone.

"This is fundamentally a force over distance problem," they write. "The longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries."

Another all-electric advantage is added by the fact that the battery pack of the Model S is mounted below the vehicle's floor pan, thus giving it such a low center of gravity that it's exceedingly difficult to flip. "During testing at an independent facility," they write, "the Model S refused to turn over via the normal methods and special means were needed to induce the car to roll."

And when it does finally roll over, occupants of the Model S won't be forced to play – or be – dead: according to Tesla, other top-ranked cars scored "approximately 50 percent worse" in rollover damage.

Finally, Tesla boasts that the lithium-ion battery in the Model S "did not catch fire at any time before, during or after the NHTSA testing," that no lithium-ion battery has ever caught fire in any Tesla Roadster or Model S, and that the company is unaware of any fatality ever occuring in any of its automobiles.

And about that battery: perhaps Boeing Dreamliner engineers should make a visit to Tesla's Fremont, California auto plant. ®

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