The design flexibility afforded by an electrical vehicle may be a key to the Model S’s record safety rating, challenging early public perceptions of electric cars as weak vehicles, prone to battery fires and other mechanical failures.
Because the $70,000-plus electric car does not require a large gasoline engine block, there is added room in the front of the car for crumple zones, which absorb energy from front-end collisions. The motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle, away from the most common impact zones. The car’s front section is instead used as a second trunk.
“A longer crumple zone means there’s a longer period of time in which the crash is unfolding,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has not yet tested the Model S. “The vehicle can slow down over a longer period of time, which benefits the people inside.”
In its press release, Tesla compares it to a diver jumping into a pool of water from a tall height. “[I]t is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks.”