One of the more dramatic displays on any manufacturer's stand in Detroit was a Volvo C30 Electric that had been subjected to a 40-mph offset-frontal impact test. Although suffering substantial damage, the car emerged from the crash with all of its battery pack elements and cables intact.
"The test produced exactly the results we expected," said Jan Ivarsson, Senior Manager Safety Strategy & Requirements at Volvo Cars. "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." Ivarsson went on to note that: "Our far-reaching research emphasizes the importance of separating the lithium-ion batteries from the car's crumple zones and the passenger compartment. This is the same safety approach we apply with regard to the fuel tank in a conventional car."
Unlike a normal vehicle where the combustion engine helps distribute the incoming collision forces, that task is handled by a reinforced frontal structure in the C30 Electric, a design element that also helps absorb the increased collision energy created as a result of the car's added weight. The C30 Electric's 660-pound lithium-ion battery pack is located in the traditional fuel tank area as well as in the center tunnel, and everything is protected by various structural components. All of the associated cables are fully shielded for maximum protection. The sophisticated crash sensor in the Volvo C30 Electric that manages airbag deployment also controls the fuses and can cut power in 50 milliseconds should a serious collision occur. It also incorporates a number of supplemental fuses that perform the same function should a short ever be detected.
In addition to showing off its robust design, Volvo chief Stefan Jacoby announced that a C30 Electric demonstration fleet will be coming to America sometime later this year. The car has a range of 75-95 miles on a single charge and a top speed of 81 mph. "Among other things, we will give the U.S. media opportunities to test-drive the car. We think they will find it as enjoyable to drive and as dynamic as the standard car. 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."