Model 3 is the first Tesla electric car to win an IIHS safety award

The Tesla Model 3 has earned an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ award — the highest safety award given by the organization.

The Model 3 is the first Tesla to earn an IIHS safety award, and only the second battery-electric car. The IIHS also recently named the Audi E-tron a Top Safety Pick+, and the Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel cell vehicle also received the award.

“Vehicles with alternative powertrains have come into their own,” IIHS chief research officer David Zuby said in a statement. “There’s no need to trade away safety for a lower carbon footprint when choosing a vehicle.”

The Model 3 earned the top “good” rating in all IIHS crash tests, a prerequisite for the Top Safety Pick+ award. In addition to crash tests, cars must also perform well in tests for headlights and front-crash prevention systems to earn the top award. The Tesla earned the top “superior” rating for front-crash prevention, as well as the highest “good” rating for its headlights.

A second electric car came close to matching the Model 3 in testing, the IIHS noted. The Chevrolet Bolt EV missed out on a Top Safety Pick+ rating because of its headlights, which were rated “poor.” The Chevy earned a “good” rating in all IIHS crash tests except the passenger-side small overlap, where it was rated “acceptable.” Crash-test performance, along with the optional front-crash prevention system, was enough to earn the Bolt EV a Top Safety Pick rating, without the “plus.”

While the Model 3 and Bolt EV are very different vehicles, they are close enough in price that they could be cross-shopped by car buyers. The Bolt EV starts at $37,495, while the cheapest Model 3 currently listed on Tesla’s website starts at $40,190. The IIHS has also tested the Nissan Leaf, another mass-market electric car, but the Nissan did not earn a safety award. While all cars sold in the United States must meet certain crash-test standards, IIHS ratings give buyers a point of comparison on safety.

It’s a different situation with luxury electric cars. The Audi E-Tron may be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, but its two main rivals — the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X — haven’t been tested. Similarly, the Hyundai Nexo is the only hydrogen fuel cell vehicle tested by the IIHS to date. These ratings allow shoppers to compare the E-Tron and Nexo with internal-combustion models, though.

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