Monday, July 20, 2009

Tata Nano passed structural safety test

The diminutive Tata Nano has passed its first basic EC structural safety
tests which will becomes Indian structural safety standard in 2012. The
tests were conducted at UK's MIRA test center under the supervision of Nic
Fasci, type approval engineer from Britain's Vehicle Certification

Two slightly modified Tata Nano cars flown in from India to the MIRA test
center and were subjected to a 50 kmph side impact and a 56 kmph offset
frontal impact test, the minimum required for any vehicle to be sold in

Tata Engineering chief Clive Hickman said the aim of the tests was to show
that with basic modifications the present car could meet the existing
safety regulations and set the vehicle on course for a European version to
be ready by 2012.

The tests that Tata Motors has put the Nano through at MIRA are designed
to demonstrate that the car, a low-cost vehicle aimed specifically at the
Indian market, is nevertheless within the mainstream of vehicle
development worldwide.

Tata wants to introduce a European version of the Nano by 2012 and has
plans too to export the cars to other regions, including North America. It
has also been stung by criticism that the basic vehicle does not meet
safety standards - Indian standards are less demanding than European, but
are planned to catch up.

In fact, the base Nano meets current Indian regulations and the tests at
MIRA were devised to show that small lineside modifications would mean
that the vehicle would meet present base standards in Europe, which are to
become the Indian baseline standards in 2012.

Further modification, including lengthening and widening the vehicle, plus
fitting airbags and other equipment, will be done before the car is put
through a EuroNCAP-style test for the European market.

The structural tests done at MIRA were of two kinds:

* 50 km/h side impact test.

* 56 km/h offset frontal crash test, with the car hitting a deformable
object at a 40% point on the front (driver side).

The tests are the baseline for structural safety type approval in Eutrope
at present and are due to become the baseline in India in 2012. Consumer
pressure, rather than legislative requirement, means that cars actually
sold in Europe undergo the more rigorous tests of EuroNCAP, with its stars
ratings, and Tata intends that any Nano developed for the European market
will satisfy these requirements.

The cars that went through the tests last week were modified on the line
at the Nano's temporary manufacturing base in India. Four areas within the
car were strengthened: structural foam was added to the cant rail; the
front longitudinal structure is reinforced; structure is added to the
front behind the bumper and on the firewall; and structure is added to the
front doors.

A driver's airbag was included for the tests, but this was not fully
calibrated and was triggered remotely.

Later cars developed for European markets will have features such as
airbags as standard. Other modifications will add around 150mm to the
length of the vehicle, plus some width to accommodate side airbags. There
will also be changes to interior trim and the small skinny wheels are
likely to be upgraded.

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