TESLA Motors Inc. already claims to have the electric car that can go the longest between charges, and now it is claiming another automotive superlative -- the safest car on the road.
The Palo Alto, Calif., electric-car company said that during recent testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants."
Officials at the federal agency didn't return calls seeking confirmation of Tesla's claim. But the sporty Model S did win a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA, a ranking reserved for vehicles that do best in the agency's crash-test program.
"NHTSA does not publish a star rating above five; however, safety levels better than five stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars," Tesla said.
The company said not having a big gasoline engine in the front of the car creates a safer design.
This creates "a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high-speed impact," Tesla said in a statement. "This is fundamentally a force-over-distance problem -- the longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries."
The architecture of an electric car also helped in the rollover test, the company said.
Tesla tucks its large, heavy battery pack below the floor of the car, a factor that adds stability and also improves handling, it said.
During testing, "the Model S refused to turn over via the normal methods, and special means were needed to induce the car to roll," Tesla said.
The Model S is getting good reviews from a variety of sources. In May, Consumer Reports said it was one of the best cars the influential magazine has ever tested.
Co-founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, Tesla is attempting to become the first successful U.S. automotive startup in nearly a century. It started selling the Model S about a year ago.
Its price starts at US$63,570 and climbs to well above $100,000 if a customer springs for a larger battery that extends the vehicle's range to more than 320 kilometres on one charge, more than double other electric cars.
The automaker earned its first profit, an $11.2-million gain, in the first quarter of this year. Excluding one-time expenses, the maker of high-end electric cars squeezed out an operating profit of $26 million in the second quarter, a financial result that beat Wall Street's expectations.
Tesla's finances are being helped by special California and other environmental credits it collects every time it sells a Model S. It has sold about $150 million of such credits to other automakers so far this year.
Tesla builds the Model S at a factory in Fremont, Calif., where it plans to also make the Model X -- an electric SUV built on the same platform as the Model S and sharing much of its technology -- starting next year.
-- Los Angeles Times