Have you ever wanted to know what happens when you send a small car like a Volkswagen Golf into a big rig? As a small car driver and someone with a morbid mind, I’ve had that thought many a time. And, apparently, so does Scania — although they’re out here doing it for research.
Scania is a Swedish manufacturer of commercial vehicles, like big rigs, trucks, and buses. Scania is also interested in converting to electric power in the near future, which brings with it a whole set of new safety concerns to add on top of the fact that a big rig crashing into a smaller vehicle is always bad news.
While any internal combustion engine is susceptible to explosions (considering that’s literally how it gains its power), an explosion as a result of a collision with an EV battery is a much different story. Battery fires are a son of a bitch to extinguish and are prone to lighting up again even after they seem to be put out.
In order to develop safety measures for big rigs, Scania runs tons of virtual simulations to prepare the vehicle design. Most of the hard work is done well before a crash test takes place; the crash is basically just a way to confirm that all that maths worked out the way it’s supposed to.
While ICE-equipped cars can use crash sleds and achieve a pretty similar result to what would happen in a real-life crash, you have to do things a little differently with an EV. From Scania:
The energy from the impact needs to be distributed and should spread throughout the structure surrounding the battery. The desired state is that it turns into plastic deformation and kinetic energy in less critical components. “Since we want the crash test to be as authentic as possible, we use a real car for the impact, as that puts a lot more stress on the structure than if we’d used a barrier,” said Mikael Littmann, Head of Mechanical Testing.
By the time you get to the actual crash test itself, you can pretty accurately predict what’s going to happen. You can watch the full video here.