How It Works

Anatomy of a deadly collision

This is a side-impact test on Ford’s latest small car design. A sled loaded with sensors and a specially adapted bumper designed to accurately re-create crash forces while recording impact is propelled down the Merkenich test centre runway (which How It Works visited in Germany) and into the static B-Max at 50 kilometres (31 miles) per hour. It’s a significant impact that could, potentially, seriously injure the occupants of the vehicle without adequate protection. Even at these low speeds the driver is susceptible to head and neck injuries because, quite incredibly, the force of the impact is equivalent to three African elephants simultaneously sitting on the side of the vehicle!

This is a standard test that every car seeking a European NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) rating must take. What makes this one significantly different from a typical side-impact test is the B-Max itself: it has no B-pillar (the vertical beam that separates the front and back doors) and so requires some nifty engineering to make up for the structural weaknesses this design might lend itself to otherwise. The B-pillar was removed from the B-Max in order to improve accessibility, so to compensate for the structural strength that this traditional pillar provides to the framework of the car, Ford has instead integrated it into the doors.

In practice – and despite the lack of rigid central column – the side-impact test result is comparable to that of a modern car with a good safety rating, as the bodywork still absorbs most of the blow. The crash-test dummies inside the B-Max were apparently rattled but, other than that, unharmed.