Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf crash so good

In the first independent crash tests of mainstream all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt took top grades from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on all measures — in part because both outweigh other small cars.

The IIHS says the Volt and Leaf qualified for its "top safety pick," passing the IIHS standards for front, side, rear and rollover collisions. The IIHS, a research arm of the insurance industry, ran both cars through its standard battery of tests. It's kind of fun to watch.

While both cars offer the full range of safety features found in vehicles, they also weigh more than non-electric vehicles in their size class. The IIHS has long argued that making cars lighter can reduce safety, a controversial position among auto safety experts. While a midsize sedan typically weighs about 3,200 lbs., the Leaf weighs 3,370 lbs, and the Volt checks in at a hefty 3,760 lbs. — a far better matchup for electric car enthusiasts in a crash than the bantamweight golf-car electrics crushed in IIHS tests last year.

Photo Credit: IIHS