When you’re attempting to get people to buy a car in America, safety rates highly on many shoppers’ checklists. Maybe that’s why three-wheeled car maker Elio Motors sent out a second safety-related newsletter this week.
The newsletter said the upstart automaker plans to build its three-wheeled, two-passenger eponymous commuter car to standards well beyond those that would make it eligible to sell in the United States. Elio Motors said it has to comply with a number of safety standards, as outlined in the communique:
The Federal Government: The Federal Government has many regulations under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which govern the automotive and motorcycle industry – from crashworthiness to tire pressure. The FMVSS are the base standards that all vehicles (or automobiles under 8800 lbs) must meet to be sold in the United States. These tests are conducted by the OEM, Elio Motors, at a qualified test lab to ensure the stated standards are met.
National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA): NHTSA created 5-Star Safety Ratings under its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), to provide consumers with information about the crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles beyond what is required by Federal law. One star is the lowest rating; five stars is the highest. More stars equal safer cars.
Elio Motors has aligned with NHTSA’s philosophy of providing our consumers with the safest vehicle as a means to improve the likelihood they will walk away from an impact event with less injury. Therefore, in addition to including three airbags, a driver airbag for frontal protection and side curtain airbags for occupant protection in both a side impact and a rollover event as standard equipment, Elio Motors will follow the NCAP standards when evaluating the Elio. Star ratings are determined based on conducting three tests: a frontal crash, a side impact crash and rollover resistance of the Elio.
Furthermore, when Elio Motors determines the aspects of their safety objectives, certain compliance factors must be demonstrated through a series of three steps.
The first of those steps, Elio said, is computer simulation of crash events. The simulations “provide digital predictions of the physical testing performance before real hardware is available,” according to the newsletter. The simulation results are used to determine if the car will meet FMVSS and NCAP safety requirements, among others, according to Elio.
“By the time the physical hardware is available, those involved will have a high level of confidence that the Elio will meet or exceed requirements,” the newsletter said.
Of course, physical crash testing will eventually follow. The first step toward that eventuality is testing of individual components, Elio Motors said. That means putting airbags through their paces and testing safety systems on a “sled,” or a platform meant to simulate the way the components will be mounted within the Elio once it is produced. This step gives Elio Motors a chance to alter things like airbag size or inflation time before final production.
Finally, when full-on crash testing takes place, it will take place in two parts, as explained by Elio:
Step Three: Actual Vehicle Crashing Testing
Elio Motors determines how many vehicles to put through the test, although 30-50 are tested on average. This phase is typically used to prove the “crashworthiness” and in most cases determine if the vehicle can be offered for sale.
As mentioned in a previous Tech Talk, approximately six months after the Elio reaches the market, NHTSA will purchase several of the vehicles unannounced and place through a series of crash tests to further evaluate the safety of our vehicle.
When all is said and done, each one of the suppliers that is involved with the safety components within the Elio will have conducted a series of tests. This will help to validate physical performance with digital performance which equals correlation.
As I outlined last time Elio Motors was talking safety tech, I’m most interested in seeing how the Elio fares in side crash testing. NHTSA and IIHS run two different major side crash tests — one simulating a T-bone collision, and the other simulating a crash where the car wraps itself around a pole or tree. The car reportedly is being designed with substantial front and rear crumple zones, but with the Elio being a narrow, tandem-seating three-wheel car, I can’t envision it allowing a lot of room for absorbing crash forces from the side. Time — and crash test results — will tell.