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Thin shell cars are not necessarily unsafe

The thin shell makes the car easily deformed and dented in the event of an accident, but it cannot be concluded that it is unsafe because it depends on the body structure.

Reader’s Question Anh Duc about Are thin-shell cars less safe? received great attention from readers with nearly 200 comments. Before this question, auto experts gave a detailed explanation.

Cars are made up of more than 30,000 different parts. The materials used on the car are similar, from steel, aluminum, plastic, rubber, corrugated iron, carbon fiber… The body of the car consists of two main parts: the frame and the outer shell.

The chassis (frame) and the shell make up the basic body structure, excluding the engine, transmission, shock absorber, and interior. The materials used for these two parts can be similar and different, but the chassis is usually made of a stiffer material. In the case of thin car tires, what are their pros and cons?

First of all, according to experts, the concept of thin or thick that users often verify by typing and hearing the sound is just a feeling, not a representation of the quality of the material. Thickness or thinness needs to be measured with a specialized ruler, as well as compared with the design standards of that car company or compared with the common ground in the segment. Depending on the design purpose of each company, this company has a thinner or thicker case than another.

Body deformed after an accident.  Photo: Chaneyscolision

Body deformed after an accident. Image: Chaneyscolision

According to Nguyen Minh Dong, a former Volkswagen engineer, thin car tires help reduce weight, thereby saving fuel. Thanks to the reduction of materials, manufacturers reduce costs and increase competitiveness in the market.

However, thin shell also has many disadvantages, for example, the car is more prone to vibration and noise than the car with thick, hard shell. “In terms of common sense, it can also be seen that thin car tires are easy to deform and deform when a light collision occurs. The cases of accidents, vehicle overturning, rolling on the road, the level of protection for the occupants. The interior will decrease if the shell is thin. On the contrary, the thick shell helps protect passengers better,” said Mr. Dong.

Sharing the same opinion, Mr. Khuong Quang Dong, a former automotive engineer who worked at Renault, said that the thin shell helps the car to be light and consume less gas. However, the safety issue depends on whether the body structure is covered, protecting the occupants inside or not. “Considering the level of protection for occupants, the body structure (bearing frame) is the most important, not the body.”

The rib structure is designed to minimize injury to people inside. In particular, the front part (bonnet) and the rear of the car are the places where easily deformable materials are often used to absorb impulses, while the parts close to the cabin have a bearing effect to prevent deformation.

Body structure of an XC90.  The red parts such as columns A, B, C, door sills, roof rack frames use super strong steel.  Places such as the front bumper, rear, and front subframe (blue0 uses materials with lower stiffness. Photo: Volvo)

Body structure of a Volvo XC90. The red parts such as columns A, B, C, door sills, roof rack frames use super-strength steel. Places such as the front bumper, rear, front subframe (blue uses materials with lower stiffness. Photo: Volvo

The chassis is like a cage that wraps the occupants inside, made from aluminum, steel, carbon fiber … and designed to achieve optimal rigidity. Along with seat belts and airbags, a sturdy frame helps passengers to be protected against external forces (in case of collision, accident).

According to Mr. Minh Dong, the front or rear of the car is a place designed to absorb impulses, so the material used is easy to deform. But the car not only has a direct impact, there are also cases where the car is hit horizontally or from above (impact on the ceiling). Places such as the side or ceiling are often used hard materials to better protect passengers with the chassis.

Thus, thin car shells have their own advantages and disadvantages in terms of design and cost. As for the safety and effectiveness of passenger protection, it is necessary to take into account the body structure (frame and shell) to have a more objective assessment.

Pham Trung

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