Want better crash test ratings for your car? Have a trunk in the front

The latest model from Tesla Motors received high marks in crash-test ratings. What is the secret to the safety of this electric car?

The luxury electric sedan earned an overall safety rating of five out of five stars from the federal agency, Tesla announced Tuesday. It also earned at least five stars in every category, a feat that puts it in the top 1 percent of cars tested by NHTSA…

Because the $70,000-plus electric car does not require a large gasoline engine block, there is added room in the front of the car for crumple zones, which absorb energy from front-end collisions. The motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle, away from the most common impact zones. The car’s front section is instead used as a second trunk.

“A longer crumple zone means there’s a longer period of time in which the crash is unfolding,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has not yet tested the Model S. “The vehicle can slow down over a longer period of time, which benefits the people inside.”

In its press release, Tesla compares it to a diver jumping into a pool of water from a tall height. “[I]t is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks.”

Didn’t more cars in the past have the engines in the rear? This idea could prompt all sorts of government action: why not require, or at least strongly recommend, the front of the car should not have an engine for safety reasons? Perhaps Tesla is doing some other interesting things with their design to minimize crash damage but this seems like an “easy” fix to the number of injuries and fatalities in cars each year.

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