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Crashed Electric Volvo C30 Displayed at Detroit Auto Show

DETROIT — What happens when an electric car hits a wall at 40 miles an hour? For the answer, Volvo crashed one.

“We found the battery packs need to be mounted in the car away from the crumple zones that are designed to absorb energy and deform upon impact,” said Stefan Jacoby, chief executive of Volvo Cars, here on Tuesday, where the company displayed a crashed E.V. based on Volvo’s C30 hatchback. “We are the first car maker to show the world what a truly safe electric car looks like after a collision with high-speed impact,” he said.

Whether electric vehicles are as safe as conventional cars, which already have been extensively crash-tested and refined for decades, is a question that many prospective E.V. buyers can be expected to ask. Would ruptured batteries leak lithium? Is there an elevated risk of fire?

For answers to those questions and more, the C30 was crashed at Volvo’s Gothenburg, Sweden, laboratory last month, with a fully charged lithium-ion battery system. It was subjected to a 40 m.p.h. offset frontal collision with a barrier. The batteries and the cables, which are part of the electric system, remained intact, Volvo reported.

Volvo’s battery development partner, Ener1, designed a “split battery” system specifically for the C30, with half the battery located in the central tunnel between the seats and the other half under the rear seats, where the gas tank would normally be located.


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