A crash test is a procedure conducted by automobile manufacturers for the purpose of evaluating a vehicle's resilience and behavior during a collision, as well as its overall ability to provide protection to the passengers. Such tests have been conducted since the 1950s and play an important role in improving safety for road users. The results provide a lot of valuable information before a specific vehicle is put into service.
A crash test in practice
Conducting a crash test is now an obligation for all car manufacturers. This is regulated by legislation introduced in the 1970s that requires vehicles to meet certain crash standards. If a model does not meet the requirements, it may not be allowed to enter traffic according to the regulations applicable in the country concerned. Within the European Union, the decision depends on so-called EC type approval, but tests are often carried out by independent institutions. One of the most important such entities is the Euro NCAP – European New Car Assessment Programme, a non-profit organization that deals with the assessment of vehicle safety.
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What tests are performed?
The exact list of tests, as well as their parameters, varies depending on the specific legal guidelines and requirements of the organization that performs them. In the case of Euro NCAP, the set of tests to be undertaken in the examination currently includes:
Frontal off-set – this part consists of two tests. The first is a full frontal impact into a stationary wall at a speed of 50km/h. In the second test, the vehicle collides with a mobile obstacle weighing 1,400 kg, which is designed to simulate an average car on the road. Both the test car and the obstacle are moving at 50 km/h in this case. The impact area is 50% of the frontal area of the vehicle.
- Side impact – a 900 kg barrier strikes the side of a stationary vehicle at a speed of 50 km/h at the level of the central body pillar.
- Pole test – the car is moving sideways at a speed of 29 km/h and strikes a vertical obstacle, also at the level of the central body pillar.
- Pedestrian impact test – simulates a pedestrian being hit by the front of a vehicle traveling at 40 km/h. Dummies are used for this purpose.
Some crash tests also incorporate additional examinations. These include driving a car into the back of another vehicle, a rollover, a motorcyclist colliding with a vehicle, driving into a tree, or crashing into a guard rail.
Euro NCAP 2021 rating scale
Based on the results of the crash tests, reviews are written and divided into several categories:
- adult occupant protection,
- child occupant protection,
- vulnerable road user protection,
- safety assist.
Each of these categories is rated by percentage and then an overall rating is given on a 5-point star scale. The highest rating is effectively good impact protection and comprehensive features with practical technology to prevent accidents. Interestingly, the scale initially included only 4 stars – although when a fifth was added in 1999, experts thought it would be impossible to achieve the maximum rating, just two years later the second-generation Renault Laguna could boast such a score. Year on year, the number of 5-star ratings is increasing due to the use of ever safer materials and designs in car manufacturing.
Euro NCAP 2021 – which models performed best?
In 2021, 35 crash tests were conducted. Five stars were awarded to more than half of them – as many as 24 models. Among them were the Skoda Fabia, Toyota Yaris Cross, Nissan Qashqai or Hyundai Tucson.
Genesis, the Korean luxury brand owned by Hyundai, can take pride in its considerable successes – as many as four models of this manufacturer (the G70, GV70, G80 and GV80) received a 5-star rating. Other brands that received such a score were the Volkswagen ID.4 and ID.5, the BMW iX, the Mercedes EQ EQS, the Hyundai IONIQ 5, the Audi Q4 e-tron, the Subaru Outback and the Skoda ENYAQ iV. At the other end of the ranking were models such as the Renault Zoe (0 stars) or several models from Dacia – the Jogger and Spring with 1 star and the Logan and Sandero Stepway with two stars.
On the basis of the results obtained by each model in 2019-2022, it was also possible to select the safest car in each of the categories studied. The results are as follows:
- protection for the driver and passenger inside the car: the Mazda CX30 (99%),
- protection for children inside the car: the Subaru Forester, the Mercedes EQ EQS, the Mercedes CLA, the Mercedes EQ EQB, the Nissan Qashqai (91%),
- pedestrian protection: the Mercedes EQ EQA (94%),
- advanced driver assistance systems: the Subaru Outback, the Nissan Qashqai (95%).
What affects the safe use of a car?
Nowadays, both car manufacturers and customers place great importance on the safety of the models introduced to the market. The factors that most affect the protection of users during the operation of a vehicle are divided into two groups: active safety and passive safety. The first includes all the features of the car that reduce the likelihood of an accident. The second focuses on reducing the consequences of a collision that has already occurred. Among the car design solutions aimed at increasing the safety of the car are:
- improved dynamic characteristics,
- the use of anti-skid systems, wheel-lock protection and brake assist systems,
- introduction of systems affecting lateral, directional and longitudinal stability,
- systems affecting steering and maneuvering,
- increased visibility and driving comfort,
- improvements to the body structure through the use of a rigid frame and reinforcement of the cabin,
- the use of controlled crumple zones,
- the use of deformable steering columns.
See more: Bumper absorber module for pedestrian protection in Renault Captur
How to improve a car's performance in a crash test?
Improving a car's performance in a crash test requires manufacturers to have a very well-developed design and high-quality materials used in manufacturing. It is difficult to say exactly what needs to be modified – much depends on the specific model. Cars from different segments will react differently during the test. The weight of the vehicle is also an important factor. Regardless of the class and type of car, however, it is worth betting on proven materials that effectively increase protection without adversely affecting driving comfort.
Knauf Industries, which primarily manufactures interior and exterior components made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) and polypropylene (EPP), offers safe solutions for the automotive industry. Products offered by Knauf Industries include EPP safety systems, car seats and child seats, pillars, bumpers and more.
Both EPP and EPS have a very high shock absorption capacity and high impact resistance. Using components from these materials allows for optimal energy distribution inside the vehicle, which significantly increases passenger safety.