Volvo targets safety in electric cars

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Volvo Car Corporation’s work on electrification technology includes a systematic approach to safety issues related to battery power.

The basic perspective is that a battery-powered Volvo must be as safe as any other new Volvo car - when it comes to owning and driving and also in the event of an accident.

“We apply the same high safety standards to all our products but the safety-related challenges may differ depending on the driveline and fuel being used. To us, electrification technology is another exciting challenge in our quest to build the safest cars on the market,” says Volvo Cars’ safety expert Thomas Broberg. He adds:

“It is understandable that a lot of questions about electrification safety are related to what will happen in an accident. But considering that less than one percent of our cars are involved in an accident during their life on the roads, we must adopt a more holistic approach, including all the aspects of day-to-day usage of the car.”

Volvo is currently conducting wide-ranging and thorough analysis of a variety of safety scenarios for cars with electric power. Through advanced automatic monitoring of battery status and by encapsulating the battery and protecting it effectively in a collision, the result is a comprehensive safety package of the very highest class.

“A holistic approach and real-life traffic conditions are always the starting-point for our safety work. Based on our massive database with input from actual road accidents, we know where the focus must lie in everyday traffic conditions. The solutions we have developed for our forthcoming electric cars therefore take into account the situations that are unique to this type of car,” says Thomas Broberg.

Everything from the way the cars are produced, used and serviced to the way they are recycled is analysed thoroughly and the information obtained is used to shape the development of the final production car.

Volvo’s safety tests take place in several different stages. First at component level, then for whole systems and finally the complete car is safety-tested virtually in the computer, and physically in Volvo Cars’ technically advanced crash-test centre.

“We have made tests on component level to see how the battery is affected by harsh braking and the subsequent collision. We have also carried out advanced full-scale crash tests to evaluate the technology used in electrically powered cars,” reveals Thomas Broberg. He adds:

“The lithium-ion batteries are packaged in the centre of the vehicle, removing them from the crumple zones.”

Volvo Carsis using its unique know-how from actual traffic conditions to carry out detailed testing and verification. What is more, the test regime includes the general requirements and protocols of the industry’s safety institutes.

When Volvo Cars analyses traffic situations from a safety perspective, the engineers use a model that illustrates the sequence of events during the whole driving phase. The process is divided into five phases: from the normal driving situation to after the accident has occurred. Based on these five phases, Volvo develops new safety solutions and improves existing ones.

All Volvo Cars’ existing safety systems will also be available in the company’s electric cars. However, electric power also adds new possible safety scenarios to the overall picture and these too must be dealt with.

Volvo’s safety experts have meticulously analysed the five accident sequence phases and developed unique solutions for the battery and for protection of the occupants as necessary.

1. Normal driving: A comprehensive and advanced monitoring system keeps watch and ensures that each cell maintains the correct voltage level and optimal operating temperature by regulating the cooling system. This is of significance to both safety and battery capacity. In the event of any deviation, the battery is automatically shut down as a preventive measure.

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