Crash-test facility

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

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New Fraunhofer crash-test facility

Are modern, lightweight vehicles safe? What happens in a crash involving an electric car? These are the sorts of questions researchers are investigating – along with many others – at the new, versatile crash-test facility in Efringen-Kirchen, Baden-Württemberg.

Fraunhofer crash-test facility at Fraunhofer EMI in Efringen-Kirchen

Are modern, lightweight vehicles safe? What happens in a crash involving an electric car? These are the sorts of questions researchers are investigating – along with many others – at the new, versatile crash-test facility in Efringen-Kirchen, Baden-Württemberg. Its inauguration was attended by many representatives of the automotive industry.

»Our new testing hall is 42 meters long. We assess crash scenarios involving speeds of up to 80 km/h and a maximum vehicle weight of 3,000 kilograms. The facility is very versatile. Today, we’re testing a rear impact with a 50% overlap. However, we’re equally capable of executing frontal and side collisions thanks to versatile sleds,« says Markus Jung. A red station wagon has already been prepared for the test by affixing reference strips and markers at the measuring points.

For safety reasons, nobody is allowed in the hall during crash testing. Scientists begin the test from a cockpit protected by security glass. The key components of the test facility are the two hydraulic units, one responsible for the brake mechanism and the other for generating the power needed to drive the catapult. When the system is started up, nitrogen is fed into these two pressure cylinders. The gas is then compressed to a maximum pressure of 200 bar. The high pressure generates the thrust used by the push rod to propel a crash sled toward the car. Until a scientist begins the crash test at the click of a mouse, the push rod is kept in place by brakes boasting twelve brake pads. To execute a collision at 30 km/h, the distance between car and crash sled is no more than a hand’s breadth.

As to exactly what happens during the crash, that is recorded by up to seven high-speed cameras located inside the hall and determined by measuring the displacement of the reference markers on the car. Materials, structures and components are analyzed using specially developed measuring and evaluation techniques. Fraunhofer makes the data available to automotive manufacturers and suppliers. Software tools are employed to process the information using numerical computer simulation.

»Our newly built crash-test unit is a modern testing facility that meets the strictest standards. Thanks to the creation of this unit, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft now has the added capability of testing whole vehicles for crash safety, and not just individual components. As a result, we can now offer customers in the automotive industry a full range of services for the development of crash-safe vehicles,« says a delighted Prof. Klaus Thoma, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI, commenting on the successful opening of the new crash-test unit

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