Before Volvo Trucks releases any new model on to the market, the vehicle always undergoes a rigorous crash-test programme. The Volvo FE Hybrid is no exception, but with its 578kg battery pack, it presents the crash-test engineers with new challenges.

“It’s immensely important to carry out collision tests when working with new alternative drivelines. In the hybrid truck, the battery pack is fitted at the side of the vehicle and we must be absolutely sure that the technology is safe,” explains Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic and Product Safety Director at Volvo Trucks.

Car rams into the battery pack

The Volvo FE Hybrid is propelled in parallel by an electric motor and a diesel engine, making possible fuel savings of up to 30%. The hybrid model, which will primarily perform distribution and refuse collection duties in urban areas, was tested by simulating a collision in which a car hits the side of the battery pack at a speed of 46 kilometres per hour (28.6mph).

“This is a common accident type in city traffic, where this type of truck will be. The scenario is a car that goes through a red light and drives into the side of the truck,” says Carl Johan Almqvist.

The battery pack weighs 578kg and the battery itself weighs 232kg. The electrical system operates on 600 Volts.

Volvo had never previously carried out a crash test on a hybrid truck. That is why the event was attended not only by collision engineers, but also experts from the engine, transmission and electrical departments.

“We decided to carry out the test during the 45 seconds that the battery is being charged. That is when most current passes through the system and we can obtain the ultimate test result,” says Ulf Torgilsman, who is in charge of crash tests at Volvo Trucks.

Positive results

After the 1600kgs car sled hit the battery pack, the assembled engineers saw that the installation met all expectations. The built-in safety system shut off all activity in the battery pack.

“The test ran perfectly and everything worked exactly as planned. We saw that the battery pack is immensely stable. No thermal energy was generated, there were no fires, no fluids leaked out, the electrical system remained intact and it shut down exactly as it was supposed to do,” says Ulf Torgilsman after the crash-test.

The test demonstrated two main things: that the battery pack withstands a collision without causing a fire and that the car driver is not injured by the battery pack. Carl Johan Almqvist says that the crash-test shows that the battery is entirely secure from the traffic safety viewpoint.

“We feel now that we can release this product onto the market secure in the knowledge that it is safe, just like all Volvo products always have to be,” says Carl Johan Almqvist.