Euro NCAP has revealed the findings of safety tests of four heavy quadricycles – Club Car Villager 2+2 LSV, Renault Twizy 80, Tazzari Zero and Ligier IXO J Line 4 Places. All vehicles have performed very poorly in front and side impact tests and some have shown serious risks of life threatening injuries.
In Europe, in recent years, quadricycles, have emerged as a new class of sub-compact vehicles. Originally derived from motorcycles, they are small and fuel-efficient vehicles used in rural or urban areas as an alternative to motorbikes or city cars. In some countries, they are also used by local government authorities and institutions which require small and environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Quadricycles are road-legal in Europe and a full license may not be required to drive them. Technically classed as light quadricycles (L6e) or heavy quadricycles (L7e), these vehicles do not have to pass the stringent safety tests that apply to normal passenger cars. Light quadricycles are limited to 45kph. Heavy quadricycles are not speed-limited and, while some have very low maximum speeds, others can reach speeds of 100kph. Even vehicles with very low maximum speeds are categorised as L7e if their mass exceeds 350kg.
All four vehicles slowed severe safety problems in frontal and side impact tests at 50kph. However, Euro NCAP says the tests differ from its normal procedures and the results of the quadricycles cannot be compared with the star ratings published for passenger cars.
In the frontal test, the full width of the vehicle is impacted at 50kph into a honeycomb element attached to a concrete block. On the road, if quadricycles are struck by other vehicles, the change of velocity or ‘severity’ of the collision can be much greater than the maximum speeds they themselves are capable of. In the side impact, a honeycomb barrier is driven at 50kph into the side of the vehicle. Together, these tests, says Euro NCAP, represent the sorts of accidents that quadricycles might be involved in when driven on public roads
Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP secretary general said: “It’s worrying to find that, because crash safety tests are not required by law, quadricycles show a level of safety that is way below that of cars. Even though they meet legislative standards, these vehicles lack the minimum safety equipment which has become commonplace on passenger cars sold in Europe.”
While some vehicles scored better than others, all four quadricycles showed serious safety problems. The vehicles were scored primarily on data from crash dummies but penalties were also given for poor performance of the structure or restraints. The Ligier and the Tazzari had major failings of their restraint systems in the frontal test. In the Ligier, the upper connection of the driver’s seatbelt pulled out of the structure, leaving the dummy unrestrained and leading to a high risk of injury. In the Tazzari, the driver seatbelt broke and the driver’s head hit the steering wheel with a force that indicated a high risk of serious or fatal injury. The structure of the Club Car virtually collapsed in the frontal impact. The Renault Twizy – the only vehicle of the four tested to have an airbag as standard – scored best but its stiff structure and restraint system resulted in some dangerously high dummy readings.
“Our test campaign confirms that quadricycles generally provide a much lower level of safety than regular passenger cars. The poor results, however, urge us to ask ourselves whether consumers should really be satisfied with the protection currently being offered? As quadricycles look set to become more and more popular, Euro NCAP is calling for manufacturers and legislative authorities to ensure a minimum level of crash safety for this vehicle segment,” said Michiel van Ratingen.
India approved the use of quadricycles for commercial use exactly a year ago in May 2013. The only player to have an offering ready for the market is Bajaj Auto which has not indicated when it might do so as of now.
Bajaj Auto displayed the RE 60 at the Auto Expo this year as well as in the Auto Expo 2012.
Companies like Piaggio Vehicles India and Mahindra & Mahindra are believed to be eyeing the space but it is unclear as of now whether they have begun work on their products.
The Indian industry remains divided on whether the quadricycle qualifies as a safe vehicle. The rear-engined RE60 has a kerb weight of 400kg and its manufacturer hopes to target current users of three-wheelers. According to Bajaj Auto, the vehicle will have a fuel efficiency of 35kpl.