When we examine the issue of safety it is important not to consider only the effects of a collision on a single vehicle. The problems of compatibility between vehicles with small and high masses are becoming fundamental in automotive safety engineering. They are even more significant if we consider developments on today’s cars, which are tending to become larger and heavier. In this context, the safety of a small, light car becomes particularly significant and crucial. For this reason, the Nido project concentrated on analysing and prototyping new solutions that involve both the structure and the design of a small two-seater car, with the objective of increasing safety levels on the basis not of its weight but of a new principle.
The Nido is composed of three main elements:
- a chassis, accounting for approximately two thirds the total vehicle weight, which supports all the mechanical components, like the front and rear suspension, the engine, etc. This chassis has a front crumple zone and a rigid safety cell around the occupants;
- a shell for the occupants, which accounts for approximately one third of the vehicle weight. It is a sled that slides horizontally along a central runner within the rigid cell;
- in normal conditions the rigid cell and the sled are connected by the third element, which consists of two absorbers that dissipate the energy with a level of rigidity achieved by the combination of three honeycomb blocks of different density.
The functioning of the rigid cell/honeycomb energy absorber/sled system was verified by building simplified virtual models and simulating different types of collision. The project concluded with the construction of two development models to verify the correspondence between the physical and the virtual models. A life size prototype was also built and an industrial feasibility study was conducted based on a target output of 20,000 units per year.