by Jeff Gilbert
WWJ AutoBeat Reporter

WASHINGTON (WWJ) The Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf are getting top safety marks in their very first independant crash tests.

“It doesn’t matter what powers the wheels,” say Russ Rader, with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “It’s the safety engineering that goes into the vehicles, and the automakers are doing that with these new electric cars.”

Both vehicles winning the designation of “Top Safety Pick” indicating that they provide maximum levels of protection in a crash.

“Its structure has to manage the crash energy. The occupant compartment has to stay intact. The safety belts and airbags have to be able to do their job too keep people safe during a crash.”

This brings to 80 the number of vehicles designated as “Top Safety Picks.” Seven of those vehicles are hybrids. This is the first time the institute has tested mainstream electric vehicles.

Earlier tests of smaller, neighborhood electric vehicles showed that those more golf cart sized vehicles do not mix well with traditional gasoline powered cars. But, the Insurance Institute said the Volt and Leaf are larger vehicles, closer to the mid-sized categories, and have both the engineering and safety equipment needed to keep occupants safe.

The Insurance Institute also says the electrical systems in both vehicles performed as expected during a crash, meaning no shock hazard for either the occupants or rescue crews.

Institute Spokesman Russ Rader saying that both Nissan and General Motors have a history of building safety into vehicles, and that was apparent in the way the Leaf and Volt handled the crash tests.

“The automakers have learned how to design safety right into their vehicles from the get-go,” he said. “That has paid off with the Leaf and the Volt. These vehicles are top safety performers right out of the box.

Follow Jeff Gilbert on Twitter @jefferygilbert


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