Euro NCAP, which is part of the global safety watchdog Global NCAP (GNCAP), has revealed the results of the latest crash tests on four quadricycles including the made-in-India Bajaj Qute.
The organisation, which has studied what has changed in this segment in the past two years and has introduced a specific star rating for these vehicles to help consumers in their purchase decision, says safety equipment is sparsely fitted to these vehicles and that the results show little improvement since the last tests performed in 2014.
The crash test results of the selected vehicles – Aixam Crossover GTR, Bajaj Qute, Chatenet CH30 and Microcar M.GO Family – show that there are still fundamental problems with this segment. All four vehicles have been assessed using the same protocols that were used in 2014 when testing the first quadricycles. While some vehicles perform better than others, the standard of protection offered to the driver is still generally very low, leading to serious risks in collisions with other vehicles or obstacles.
The two-seater Chatenet CH30 is the sole quadricycle to get an overall 2-star rating; the other three get a single star rating.
Global NCAP is of the view that “with relatively low-cost improvements,” these vehicles could be made safer. The challenging issue about quadricycles is that they are a category of vehicle (called L7 in the UN classification) that is very weakly regulated compared to passenger cars (category M1). The Euro NCAP tests are designed for the European market and follow a previous set issued in 2014. The new results show little progress in a vehicle class that could grow fast especially for use in urban environments. In June GNCAP will, together with Euro NCAP, be making a presentation at the UN World Forum for Vehicle Harmonisation in Geneva urging action to appropriately regulate these vehicles.
Euro NCAP’s first tests on heavy quadricycles showed major shortcomings in safety. The organisation called for more realistic requirements from the regulators and for quadricycle manufacturers to take more responsibility for the safety of their products. Since then, more quadricycles have come onto the market and an updated European regulation has come into force, leading Euro NCAP to revisit the safety offered in this segment, with the support of Global NCAP in partnership with the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety.
Commenting on the latest test results, Euro NCAP secretary general, Dr Michiel van Ratingen, said: “It is disappointing to see that quadricycles are still lacking basic safety features that are common in small cars. By not challenging the manufacturers to do more, legislators continue to give a false impression to consumers that these vehicles are fit for purpose.”
The latest results show that little progress has been made, with test ﬁndings that are as bad as two years ago. The Microcar M.GO by Ligier is the only to be fitted with a driver airbag as an option but tests show this to be ineffective. With no improvement in structural integrity, the airbag offers no increase in protection and appears to be little more than a marketing ploy.
Quadricycles are still not subject to the same legislation as passenger cars. Nevertheless, these vehicles look like small city cars and are likely to compete for sales. However, their performance in Euro NCAP’s tests is far below a similarly-sized passenger car which can be bought second-hand more cheaply. Van Ratingen added: “Simple design changes could lead to significant improvements, with little added weight or cost. Pursuing an environmental agenda is not an excuse for unsafe vehicles. Therefore, Euro NCAP again calls for safety to be prioritised for heavy quadricycles.”
Euro NCAP says it has developed special protocols for testing heavy quadricycles. These vehicles are not subject to the same legislation as passenger cars, and do not have to be crash tested before they can be sold for road use. Safety equipment such as a driver or passenger airbag is also sparsely fitted to these vehicles and it is expected that they would all perform very poorly when tested using Euro NCAP’s regular procedures for passenger cars.
Nevertheless, heavy quadricycles are allowed on public roads where they are at risk of collision with other vehicles or obstacles. Therefore, tests are used which challenge the vehicle structure and occupant restraint systems but which offer some resolution in results to allow for meaningful comparison between vehicles in this category.
Euro NCAP says it currently bases the star ratings of quadricycles only on the protection they offer to adult occupants in the front seats. In the future, other components may be added to the assessment, such as child and pedestrian protection and driver assistance features. Two full-scale crash tests are done: a full-width frontal impact at 50kph against a deformable element; and a side impact test, also at 50kph, in which a deformable barrier is driven into the side of the vehicle.
The maximum score in each test is the same (16 points). The scores are added and the percentage of the maximum is calculated. Based on this percentage, the star rating is determined. While these are severe tests for quadricycles, they are far less stringent than those for passenger cars. Euro NCAP says quadricycle star ratings should be used only for comparison within this category of vehicles. Comparison with other star ratings is not valid.
How the Bajaj Qute fared
Commenting on the Bajaj Qute, the Euro NCAP reports says: “The structure of the Qute was judged to be unstable in the frontal test: many spot welds had released and deformation of the structure indicated that it could not have withstood a higher degree of loading. There were no signs of deformation to any mounting points for the seatbelt or buckle.
In the side impact, the door on the struck side became detached from the A-pillar as a result of the door structure detaching from the hinges.
“In the frontal impact, despite modest rearward and upward movement of the steering wheel, the dummy’s head made contact with the centre of the steering wheel. There is no frontal airbag to protect the driver and dummy readings indicated a high probability of serious or fatal injury in a human as a result of this contact. Protection of the neck was rated as good. Together with the unstable structure, contact with the rim of the steering wheel gave high chest compressions and the protection offered to this body area was rated as poor. Protection of the knee, femur and pelvis was also rated as poor owing to the presence of hard structures below the dashboard. In the side impact, the force with which the head struck the side roof rail indicated a high probability of serious or fatal injury. .ere is no side curtain airbag or padding in this area. Similarly, dummy readings of lateral rib compression were high and protection of chest was rated as poor. Protection of the abdomen was rated as marginal and that of the pelvis was good, with only moderate force measured by the dummy.”
David Ward, director general of Global NCAP, said, “Euro NCAP and Global NCAP are working in partnership to help draw policymaker and consumer attention to this category of badly performing and poorly regulated vehicles. Quadricycles have significant potential for sales in markets across the world and it’s essential that minimum safety standards are put in place and that consumers are made aware of their safety shortcomings, especially when compared with similarly sized passenger cars. We will be urging action on quadricycle safety through effective regulation in the UN World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations.”
Also read: Bajaj Auto exports 334 units of Qute in FY '16; 'delighted' with Euro NCAP test rating