The Challenge of Crashworthiness for Composite Cars

This post was taken from Altair Enlighten and contributed by my colleague, Giuseppe Resta, Manager, Global Automotive at Altair Engineering.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that passenger safety and vehicle crashworthiness were the battleground where automakers differentiated their products. Now, as many OEMs have created product development systems that rely on a CAE-driven strategy to deliver excellent passive safety performance, it appears to have taken a backseat to miles-per-gallon. Almost every car commercial touts greater fuel efficiency and seeks to validate the manufacturer’s environmental credentials.

Both safety and gas mileage advances have been pushed by regulation and pulled by consumer demand. Now that the United States has set the 54.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standard for 2025 and lower CO2 emissions have been mandated in Europe, we are entering a new era of increased challenge that could lead to significant change in the way cars are designed and constructed. OEMs and suppliers are reviewing every component and considering the technologies available to meet these new demanding standards, including investment in engineered plastic and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP) that offer high stiffness-to-weight and strength-to-weight ratios.

Reducing vehicle weight is not the only approach followed to increase fuel efficiency, but it is particularly attractive because of the unique decompounding effect gained by reducing weight. A lighter vehicle as result can be equipped with a smaller engine, transmission, and suspension with further weight reduction while maintaining vehicle performance. So, we know composites can help us create a lightweight vehicle as part of a mixed-material solution, but how do we achieve crashworthiness expectations?

You can read the full post here.

Target pulse for a typical small car with transversely mounted powertrain


Tony Norton
Tony Norton

About Tony Norton

Tony leads the Americas based Altair ProductDesign teams in the delivery of early concept (industrial design, design exploration, testing & prototyping) and advanced simulation driven design (cutting-edge modeling, optimization, methods development & automation) to our customers. Before joining Altair UK in 1996, he worked at both Ford Motor Company and GEC-Marconi Avionics. He moved to Michigan in 1999 to join Altair US, and holds a Bachelors degree from The University of Hertfordshire in England.