Apr 292011
 


The Nissan Leaf has come out at the top of recent tests of safety for electric cars. The test, held in the USA, are the first such tests of crash-worthiness to be held conducted on mainstream electric automobiles.

According to the USA’s Insurance Institute for High Safety, or IIHS, the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt topped the results of safety testing that the IIHS says demonstrates that car manufacturers are applying the same kind of safety engineering with their new electric cars as is used to ensure non-green cars are as safe as possible.

This is the first time mainstream plug-in electric vehicles have had their crash safety levels tested in the same way as other automobiles. Both the Leaf and Volt demonstrated top safety ratings for front, side, rollover and rear crash protection.

Thanks to the electronic stability control that comes as standard on the Leaf and Volt, the IIHS gave the two cars their Top Safety Pick award. The award recognises the fact that both cars come with state-of-the-art protection against the risks of crashes and the potential for injury.

Nissan Leaf - Eco Electric Car with great safety features

Nissan Leaf - Eco Electric Car with great safety features

According to the IIHS, its safety ratings give customers a way to choose cars that provide greater levels of crash protection than those mandated by federal rules. So far this year, the IIHS has given its Top Safety Award to 80 cars.

This includes the two EVs just tested and seven hybrid models. Twelve of the winners are produced by General Motors and three come from Nissan.

The Leaf is the only true all-electric vehicle tested. Though Chevrolet’s Volt is sold as an electric car, it is actually a hybrid vehicle that comes with a petrol engine, though it can run in all-electric mode.

The Volt can run for roughly 35 miles on a battery charge. When the charge runs low, the Volt’s petrol engine fires up to help propel the car and recharge the batteries.

Around town, the Volt uses the petrol engine to drive the electric motor and charge the batteries. At highway speeds, the petrol engine mechanically drives the car.

The Nissan Leaf has no petrol engine. It is a true plug-in all-electric vehicle that needs to be charged and has a range of approximately 73 miles for a single charge.

Apart from the power trains used in the Leaf and Volt, the actual engineering needed to provide maximum crash avoidance and protection is pretty well the same as for any other car. Joe Nolan, the chief administrative officer at the IIHS, said hybrid and electric cars get top crash-test ratings based on the same things as any other car.

The vehicle’s structure must be designed to manage accident damage so the cabin, or passenger compartment, is not distorted or intruded upon. Airbags and safety belts hold people in their seats and prevent them from banging against hard surfaces both inside and outside the vehicle.

Joe Nolan went on to say that green-minded drivers who want to switch to electric cars but are worried about crash protection would do much better with a Volt or Leaf than a so-called ‘low-speed vehicle’. Low-speed vehicles are a category of electric vehicle based on designs similar to golf karts. Though eco-friendly, low-speed vehicles tested by the IIHS did very poorly in safety ratings.


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