Electrified versions of conventional gasoline-powered vehicles may look the same, but large engines have been replaced with smaller motors, the batteries are enormous, and there's no gas tank to be found. Those differences are enough to impact or compromise the car's original safety features.
To demonstrate the safety of the C30 Electric, Volvo released video of a crash test that shows its electric versions are as safe as counterparts outfitted with conventional internal combustion engines (ICE).
The video was taken right before the 2011 North American International Auto Show, and shows an C30 Electric prototype with a 660-pound battery in a 40 mph offset crash. A computerized overlay outlines where the T-shaped battery is located in the vehicle, and shows that it remains fully intact and uninjured despite the high-speed crash.
"The test produced exactly the results we expected," Jan Ivarsson, Volvo safety senior manager, said in a statement. "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."
In a conventional vehicle, the engine typically distributes a lot of the impact's force. To compensate for less mass under the hood, the front crumple zone of the C30 had to be reinforced. Fortunately, you don't have to worry about leaks in the gas tank, but unlike cars with ICEs, the C30 Electric has a 440-volt electric system. Keeping that in mind, Volvo separates the lithium ion batteries from the car's crumple zones and the passenger compartment.
Volvo is often slower to adopt new technologies because of the high safety standards it imposes upon itself. While several manufacturers are already introducing electric vehicles this year, Volvo will only introduce a demo fleet of C30 Electrics sometime this year for testing. It plans to produce a plug-in hybrid in 2012 for the European market, with a U.S. model to follow shortly after.