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The Tesla Model 3 is the electric vehicle marque’s cheapest offering, but it’s not quite a compromise. For instance, the baby Tesla’s safety scores and crashworthiness credentials are outstanding. So much so that the Model 3 has a track record of protecting its occupants from felled trees. Read about the latest tree versus Tesla roof grudge match and how the Model 3 performed under pressure. 

What happens if a tree falls on a Tesla Model 3?

A recent storm in California resulted in many damaged or dead trees falling on cars and homes. In one instance, a large tree fell on a Tesla Model 3 in Portola Valley, California, resulting in a crash that severely damaged the Tesla EV. However, the Model 3’s roof and windshield structure protected the occupants from a powerful impact. 

It wasn’t a small tree either; a glance at the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Twitter picture confirms that this was a tall, heavy tree felled by a powerful storm. If the EV’s performance in the incident isn’t enough of a takeaway, drivers should avoid weather conditions like the storm in Portola Valley at all costs. 

However, this isn’t the first time a Tesla Model 3 protected occupants from a toppling tree. For example, a man in China extricated himself from his Tesla EV after a large tree uprooted itself and landed on the car. He survived the impact without serious injury, despite the sheer size and weight of the tree. 

A tree falls on the roof of a car.
Trees falling on cars can be extremely dangerous | Beata Zawrzel, NurPhoto via Getty Images

How strong is the roof on a Tesla Model 3?

One of the factors that protect occupants in a falling tree scenario is the Tesla Model 3’s deceptively strong roof structure. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2022 Model 3 can resist a peak force of 20,835 lbs to its roof for a strength-to-weight ratio of 5.85.

Moreover, the Model 3 outperforms the roof strength figures of its more expensive sibling, the Model Y. Specifically, the Model Y’s roof resists a peak force of 19,188 lbs, 1,647 less than the smaller Model 3. Moreover, the Model Y’s heavier curb weight contributes to a lower strength-to-weight ratio of 4.42. 

A black Tesla Model 3 EV shows off its roof and liftback rear.
Tesla Model 3 | Tesla

Is the Tesla Model 3 a safe car?

In addition to segment-leading roof strength scores, the Tesla Model 3 earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS. The Tesla EV earned “Good” ratings in every crashworthiness category, as well as “Superior” ratings in active crash avoidance. 

Moreover, the Model 3 earned a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the NHTSA’s testing, the Model 3 also has a low rollover risk, just 6.60%. That resistance to rolling over is courtesy of the Tesla EV’s low center of gravity due to its heavy battery architecture. 

Of course, models equipped with the Full Self-Driving system (FSD) are the subject of a recall that named over 360,000 vehicles. Owners should stay on top of any recalls, especially those related to safety.


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