The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts the most rigorous, and most respected safety evaluation in the US vehicle market. Heading into 2015 it has just released an updated list of the safest vehicles. Toyota/Lexus vehicles top the list and offer the most vehicles with the highest safety rating, the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ (TSP+) rating. Included on the list of TSP+ models are five Toyota/Lexus hybrid models serving a variety of vehicle classes. Not a single electric vehicle earns the top the rating.
IIHS Raises the Bar and EVs Don’t Measure Up
For 2015, IIHS now requires that a vehicle be available with either Advanced or Superior forward collision prevention. That eliminates Tesla’s Model S. The Model S is not currently produced with any forward collision prevention system. Tesla has made some recent press announcements regarding future product changes that might be rated Advanced or better by IIHS, but as of today, the Tesla website still says adding these safety systems will "take several months." The Volt has been dropped from the ranks of TSP+ vehicles because its optional forward crash system is too basic.
Another qualification for the top rating is that the vehicle must do Acceptable or Good on the tough small frontal overlap test. This test simulates hitting a telephone pole with the front corner of the vehicle. This test eliminates the US market’s top-selling EV, the Leaf, which was rated Poor in testing. The lowest possible score.
Toyota and Lexus Hybrids With TSP+ Rating
The only car with a plug in the US market with the top safety rating is the Prius Plug In hybrid. Like the Prius and the Prius V, it earns the highest safety rating. The Camry Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid, and the Lexus CT 200h hybrid all also are rated Top Safety Pick+.
There is nothing about the design of EVs that precludes their being rated as safe as hybrids. However, as of now, none have earned the IIHS TSP+ rating. Hopefully, that will change going forward.