Remember when the first alternative-fuel vehicles came out so many years ago?
They saved gas all right, but they didn’t have much else to offer. Like acceleration. Or any sense of visual aesthetics. Or an inexpensive price tag. Or even the security of knowing you wouldn’t be crushed like a bug in any type of collision.
But as the market matured, auto manufacturers began improving their alternative-fuel vehicles. And today, these “green” cars are sporty and stylish, quick and fast, and much more affordable.
But are they any safer? Yes, they are. In fact, they’re even safer than their gas-engine counterparts!
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which provides data for auto insurance companies that helps them set premiums for policyholders, has released new research regarding the safety of drivers and passengers in hybrid vehicles. The Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the IIHS, has determined that the odds of occupant injury in a hybrid vehicle are 25% lower than they are in the gas-engine version of the same vehicle. In other words, you are considerably less likely to be hurt inside a Honda Accord Hybrid then you are if you’re sitting in a standard Honda Accord. (Note: Two popular hybrid cars, the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius, were not included in the study because they are sold only as hybrid models and do not have any traditional-fuel twins.)
Why is that? Simple physics.
All hybrid vehicles operate on some form of battery power to either augment or replace the gas-combustion engine. These batteries are very heavy, adding hundreds of extra pounds to a car’s weight. In fact, the HLDI says that the average hybrid weighs 10% more than its non-hybrid counterpart.
And when a vehicle gets involved in a collision, its durability tends to increase along with its weight. Therefore, if a hybrid car hits a similar-sized gas-only vehicle, the added weight of the batteries will provide extra protection for those inside the hybrid.
Of course, this increased weight won’t mean much if a smaller hybrid vehicle collides with a full-size car, pickup truck, or sport utility vehicle. But given that most cars in a given size class offer comparable passenger safety features (airbags, crumple zones, etc.), the additional weight of a hybrid battery will make a significant difference in a collision with a similar-sized vehicle.
Automotive technology is an amazing thing. After all, considering what the earliest hybrids looked like, who would have thought that they would evolve to become even safer than regular cars?