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Safety and types of car seats

27 July 2022

Most vehicles are equipped with standard car seats, but during fast driving and cornering, greater safety is provided by sports seats, which provide much better stabilization for the driver's body. Most popular are bucket seats, but they are not recommended for every car. What are bucket seats and when do they work best?

What are the types of sports car seats?

In order to determine whether a bucket seat will be the right solution for your needs, it's a good idea to first find out what are the characteristics and types of sports seats for your car. The biggest advantage of this type of seat is better lateral support. It means that the driver's body does not shift under the forces that build up, for example, when cornering quickly. As a result, the driver does not have to correct their position in the car seat and can concentrate fully on performing the maneuver. In general, there are two basic types of sports seats: bucket seats and half bucket seats. How do they differ and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

What are bucket seats?

Bucket seats can be recognized at first glance by their increased depth compared to traditional "couch" seats. This ensures that the driver's hips are deeply embedded in the seat, so that they remain in place during high-speed maneuvers. The entire bucket seat structure is rigid and generally does not allow for adjustment, but it already has built-in safety harnesses. Good quality bucket seats also have lumbar and thigh support cushions.

Advantages of bucket car seats

The proper shaping of bucket seats ensures that the driver's position always remains firm and stable, allowing precise maneuvering. At the same time, the rather narrow and recessed shape of the bucket seat allows the driver to more effectively "feel" the operation of the car. In addition, its rigid and sturdy construction guarantees greater safety in unpredictable situations on the road, as well as better protection for the body in the event of an accident. Moreover, bucket seats are much lighter than standard seats, which is important for the performance of the car. But are bucket seats also comfortable?

Disadvantages of bucket car seats

The lack of backrest adjustability can be a major drawback for some people. With an ill-fitting bucket seat, the risk of back pain and injury definitely increases. In addition, a solid structure designed to hold the driver's body in one position is less comfortable than traditional seats equipped with soft foam. The sense of discomfort can be felt more strongly especially in sports cars with low, relatively rigid suspension. Due to the increased seat depth, bucket seats can also make it more difficult to get in and out of the car, and can impair visibility for those with a shorter body. 

Read also: Manufacturer of plastic car seating components

What are half bucket car seats?

The interiors of civilian cars usually use a sportier version of car seats, the so-called half bucket seats. They are not as deep as bucket seats, but thanks to their shaped sides they also provide body stabilization when cornering. At the same time, they have features normally found in ordinary "couch" seats, such as backrest and headrest adjustment. Such adjustable bucket seats are therefore better suited for everyday driving.

Advantages of half bucket seats

The ability to adjust the backrest and headrests is an advantage, especially for people with unusual body types, who gain the ability to ensure the best possible driving position, as well as greater visibility. Sporty models additionally use special foam fillings that provide greater seating comfort, which is significant for longer drives.

Disadvantages of half bucket seats

They do not provide such a secure position behind the wheel. Due to their more shallow design, they only reduce body leaning to a certain extent. The presence of additional foam and adjustment mechanisms also makes them slightly heavier than bucket models. Adjustable bucket seats or folding bucket seats cannot obtain the appropriate type-approval required for motorsports.

Which materials are used to manufacture comfortable and durable bucket seats?

The materials used for bucket seats in sports cars must, first and foremost, be lightweight and durable, and of the highest quality. In general, there are three types of bucket seat construction. The most popular type of sports bucket seats today are very strong, monolithic structures cast in a special mold of fiberglass. At the same time, they are extremely lightweight, as they weigh only about 5-7 kilograms. Even lighter designs are manufactured from carbon fiber and Kevlar compounds, weighing no more than 4 kilograms. The drawback of both of these solutions is the high cost of production, which in turn translates into their high prices. The cheapest, but also the least common type of bucket seats used in motorsports are those based on a tubular structure encased in foam. However, they are quite heavy and do not provide the required protection in an accident. An interesting material innovation that combines attractive production costs, low weight and remarkable strength is EPP foamed polypropylene.

Read more: Plastics used in automotive construction

The pneumatic molding method allows EPP foam to be molded into automotive parts of any shape and contoured as required. In addition, the production technologies used at our facilities allow components to be easily equipped in a single production cycle with special inserts of different material, for example, in the form of hooks or reinforcements. This opens up entirely new possibilities for designing lightweight and durable sports seats for various types of cars that meet the highest requirements in terms of strength, comfort and design.

Are all bucket seats comfortable and safe?

The comfort and safety of bucket seats depend on their respective seat design, the materials used and various functional solutions. Of course, a lot also depends on the individual requirements and purpose of the car in which bucket seats are to be used. For example, motorsports use special road-approved bucket seats in accordance with the requirements of the FIA World Motorsports Council.

Approved bucket seats

The requirement for FIA approval applies to sports seats used in cars participating in all kinds of rallies and championships. Approved bucket seats do not have a function allowing to change the tilt of the backrest and must feature a uniform construction. This helps guarantee drivers the best possible quality and durability of the seat, which is of colossal importance in the case of an accident on the track. Obtaining approval depends on a positive result in dynamic tests, where frontal, side and rear crashes are simulated. Professional sports seats for a car have two approvals – for five years with the possibility of extending it for another two years, and for ten years without the possibility of further extension. As you can see, such bucket seats have their "expiration date", which is the highest guarantee of safety.

In summary, the type of sports seat for a car must be matched, first and foremost, to the purpose of the vehicle and the way it is used. Bucket seats used in motorsports must be subject to specific FIA requirements, while semi-bucket seats for civilian use must be subject to the applicable general safety standards and legal requirements. 
We support our customers – manufacturers of automobiles and original equipment – in the realization of series production of any type of automotive seats, providing not only high-quality EPP components, but also expertise and support from designing through consulting to the production preparation stage, manufacturing and after-sales service. 

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