After performing its first-ever full crash test regimen on mainstream plug-in electric vehicles, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced that both the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Nissan LEAF have earned Top Safety Pick status. Both cars were awarded the TSP accolade by scoring the top rating of "good" with respect to the protection they provide in the case of front, side, rear and rollover crashes. In addition, each also is equipped with standard electronic stability control, a feature that IIHS also requires before it will name any vehicle a Top Safety Pick.
"The way an electric or hybrid model earns top crash test ratings is the same way any other car does," says Joe Nolan, the Institute's chief administrative officer. "Its structure must manage crash damage so the occupant compartment stays intact and the safety belts and airbags keep people from hitting hard surfaces in and out of the vehicle. What powers the wheels is different, but the level of safety for the Volt and Leaf is as high as any of our other top crash test performers."
So far this year, the IIHS has named 80 vehicles to its 2011 Top Safety Pick list. The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf plug-in electrics join seven other hybrid models among the "alternative fuel" vehicles numbered in that mix and bring GM's total TSP tally to 12 and Nissan's to three.