extropians: Impact safety (was Re: Fuel cells)

Impact safety (was Re: Fuel cells)

James Rogers (jamesr@best.com)
Sat, 05 Jun 1999 22:26:42 -0700

At 01:39 PM 6/5/99 -0700, gene wrote:
>No, no, no. Using electrical cars has primarily one function: zero
>emission, at least in situ. Properly designed electrical cars should
>be lithium-cell driven composite-frame lightweight vehicles without
>a transmission (motors in the wheel hub), having a spike cache
>(e.g. a supercapacitor bank) and regen (brake energy regeneration)
>braking. These things would be environmentally clean, silent and have
>very impressive driving characteristics while being impact
>safe. Design studies of these have been made.

While safe in a structural sense, I am not so sure such a vehicle would be very safe for a human passenger. When two vehicles collide, the difference in relative momentum has an enormous impact on the injury suffered. While a lightweight vehicle may offer similar structural impact resistance to a steel framed vehicle, the protective value to a human is considerably different.

As purely anecdotal evidence, I have been hit many times while in a variety of different vehicles. In one case I was hit by a Honda Accord while driving a '79 Toyota Corolla (a dinky tin death trap). Needless to say, the impact was quite bone-jarring and it shoved the car pretty hard, but I walked away the worse for wear. I have also been slammed by a similar Honda Accord while stationary in a Ford Bronco. It totalled the Honda and I was mildly annoyed when the Bronco shuddered under the impact, but otherwise barely noticed I'd been hit. I've been hit a number of times by a lot of other vehicles (and once or twice, I did the hitting), but I chose these two because the circumstances were very similar but in wildly different vehicles. I can say with great certainty that structural mass makes a big difference where vehicle-vehicle collisions are concerned. For this reason alone, I drive heavy, steel-framed vehicles. Considering the relatively high odds of dying due to traffic fatalities, I view big, heavy vehicles as an insurance policy. (On the other hand, I am increasing the odds that the other person involved in a collision with me will be mortally injured.)

-James Rogers