Ford, Volvo, Audi prove electric vehicles as safe as gas cars: IIHS

Electric vehicles are as safe at withstanding and avoiding crashes as gas cars, and generate fewer injury claims, according to the latest safety report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

“It’s fantastic to see more proof that these vehicles are as safe as or safer than gasoline- and diesel-powered cars,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. “We can now say with confidence that making the U.S. fleet more environmentally friendly doesn’t require any compromises in terms of safety.”

The non-profit safety agency funded by the insurance industry based its assertions on several data points, including testing that awarded a Top Safety Pick to the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E and a Top Safety Pick+ to the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge. That model joined the Audi E-Tron and Tesla Model 3 as electric vehicles to win the TSP+ award for 2021.

With the XC40 Recharge, Volvo is the only automaker to earn a 2021 Top Safety Pick+ on every vehicle it sells, burnishing its reputation for safety. 

To earn the industry’s highest safety honor, the model must earn “Good” ratings on all six crash tests. It must be available with automatic emergency braking that earns at least an “Advanced” rating in avoiding or nearly avoiding a crash with vehicles and pedestrians at speeds of 12 mph and 25 mph. It needs to earn the same rating in tests that show a speed reduction at 37 mph to avoid or mitigate striking a pedestrian walking beside the road.

Additionally, and most problematically since the IIHS toughened the criteria last year, TSP winners must be offered with headlights that rate at “Good” or “Acceptable,” while TSP+ honorees must make those headlights standard. 

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E missed a TSP+ because the headlights on Select and California Route 1 trims were rated “Marginal” for inadequate illumination on curves. Premium, GT, and First Edition trims had “Good” headlights. It’s common for automakers to upgrade headlights during a production year to appease the IIHS and earn that extra mark. 

The IIHS paired these test results with an updated version of a study that analyzed insurance losses for electric vehicles. Examining collision, property damage liability, and injury claims, the IIHS-affiliated Highway Data Loss Institute found that the rate of injury claims for occupants of electric vehicles was more than 40% lower than for identical conventional models from 2011-2019. 

Many new electric vehicles ride on distinct platforms and don’t have ICE equivalents, but the reason for the lower incidence of claims might be the same for standalone EVs: increased vehicle weight. The XC40 Recharge weighs 4,787 pounds, whereas the gas XC40 weighs 3,811 pounds. The Mustang Mach-E rides on its own platform without a gas counterpart, but its 4,516 pounds exceeds many three-row SUVs.

The IIHS ascribed the heavier weight to battery packs, often stretched between the axles below the floor of the vehicle, for the vehicle’s lower overall exposure in crashes. It also hasn’t found evidence of fires being a bigger issue in electric vehicles than in ICE cars. 

Last weekend’s high-profile crash in Texas of a Tesla Model S that subsequently burst into flames and took four hours to extinguish flamed concerns about EV fire safety. The two men killed in that crash were traveling at high speeds and likely died on impact due to operator error. Allegedly, neither one of them was driving. One was in the passenger seat and the other in the back seat, as it is believed they were testing out Tesla’s fatally misnamed Autopilot driver-assist system.  

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