At the Detroit Auto Show 2011 Volvo Cars is spotlighting the important issue of electric car safety in an unusual, but distinctive way. On the company's stand there is a Volvo C30 Electric that has undergone a frontal collision test at 40 mph (64 km/h).
"Our tests show it is vital to separate the batteries from the electric car's crumple zones to make it as safe as a conventional car. In Detroit we are the first car maker to show the world what a truly safe electric car looks like after a collision with high-speed impact," says Volvo Cars' President and CEO Stefan Jacoby.
The car on show is a Volvo C30 Electric, which had a fully charged battery when it was tested at Volvo Cars' crash test laboratory in early December 2010. The crash was a so-called offset collision in which 40 percent of the front hit a barrier at 40 mph (64 km/h).
"The test produced exactly the results we expected. The C30 Electric offers the very same high safety level as a C30 with a combustion engine. The front deformed and distributed the crash energy as we expected. Both the batteries and the cables that are part of the electric system remained entirely intact after the collision," relates Jan Ivarsson, Senior Manager Safety Strategy & Requirements at Volvo Cars.
In the Volvo C30 Electric the batteries are fitted in the traditional fuel tank position and in the tunnel area. The batteries are robustly encapsulated. Beams and other parts of the car's structure around the battery pack are reinforced. All the cables are shielded for maximum protection.
The crash sensor in the car also controls the fuses - and power is cut in 50 milliseconds in a collision by the same signal that deploys the airbags. The system has several fuses that cut directly if an earth fault is detected, such as a damaged cable coming into contact with the body frame.
In a conventional car, the combustion engine helps distribute the incoming collision forces. In the C30 Electric this task is performed by a reinforced frontal structure that also helps absorb the increased collision energy created as a result of the car's added weight.
The crash-tested cars are part of a rigorous test programme that also includes a large number of virtual crashes. Individual components and systems are also tested individually.
In addition to frontal full-scale tests, the C30 Electric has been subjected to other accident scenarios such as side collisions and rear-end impacts. The programme also includes front and side collisions with a rigid pole. The aim is to ensure that the car gives its occupants the best possible crash protection in the accident scenarios that are most frequent in real-life traffic.
"For us, the technology behind electric power is yet another exciting challenge in our drive to build the safest cars in the world," explains Jan Ivarsson.
The Volvo C30 Electric represents one leg in Volvo Cars' electrification strategy. The other legs include the introduction of a plug-in hybrid in Europe in 2012, featuring a diesel engine backing up the electrical motor, while the third leg includes the use power hybrids to give more miles to the gallon from Volvo's new, upcoming generation of downsized engines.
"Personally, I believe that our non-compromise electrical vehicles are one of the most important factors for future success, especially here in the U.S. I can assure you that we will be working hard to please the American luxury car buyers in the coming years. We will stand out from the crowd by delivering a distinct, individualist car experience," says Stefan Jacoby