ARLINGTON, VA - The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf have earned the highest safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the first-ever U.S. crash test evaluations of plug-in electric cars.

The Volt and Leaf earned the top rating of “good” from IIHS for front, side, rear and rollover crash protection. With standard electronic stability control, they qualify as winners of Top Safety Pick. 

The Volt and Leaf are the first mainstream electric cars the institute has tested, IIHS stated. Last year engineers put two low-speed electric vehicles through side barrier tests for research purposes.

The IIHS said that although the Volt and Leaf are classified as small cars because of their overall length, width and passenger capacity, the additional weight of the battery packs puts each vehicle’s curb weight closer to midsize and larger cars. This additional weight makes these vehicles safer, the IIHS contends, as size and weight influence crashworthiness.
"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," said Joe Nolan, IIHS chief administrative officer.

The addition of the two electric cars brings to 80 the number of award winners so far for 2011, including seven hybrid models.

"The way an electric or hybrid model earns top crash test ratings is the same way any other car does," Nolan said. "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."