The 2011 Chevrolet Volt has become the first electric vehicle to earn a five-star overall vehicle score for safety as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program.

“Safety is a key consideration for all buyers no matter how a car is powered – gas, or in the case of the Volt, electricity,” said Doug Parks, Volt global vehicle line executive.

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The Volt also has been named a 2011 Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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Fully charged, the Volt’s batteries will take the car about 35 miles on electric power only. When the batteries are discharged, a small, 1.4-liter gasoline engine starts automatically to recharge the batteries. With this engine, the car has virtually unlimited range. On a single eight-gallon tank, its estimated range is about 340 miles.

The vehicle also offers GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, front-, side- , knee- air bags as well as roof-mounted head-curtain air bags, an optional rear view camera system featuring a display integrated into the navigation system screen, a five-year subscription to OnStar’s Directions and Connections Plan including Automatic Crash Response, stolen vehicle assistance and connected navigation.

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Starting with 2011 models, NHTSA introduced tougher tests and more rigorous requirements for its five-star safety ratings program that provide more comprehensive information about safety performance and crash-avoidance technologies. Changes include a new side pole test simulating a 20-mph side-impact crash into a 10-inch-diameter pole or tree at a 75-degree angle just behind the A-pillar on the driver’s side.