Euro NCAP has tested a range of heavy quadricycles highlighting the significantly lower occupant protection than that offered by a car.
With the growth in popularity both in mainland Europe and the UK of quadricycles as a means of transport, vehicle testing organisation Euro NCAP has made assessments of the crash test performance of some of the popular models, releasing safety ratings for four vehicles.
Last tested in 2014, quadricycles have changed somewhat in the last two years and Euro NCAP set out to see if the poor performance shown two years ago had improved.
There are two categories of quadricycle offered in various markets. The light quadricycle is limited in weight and has a maximum top speed of 45 kph (30 mph), this category can be driven on a moped licence by 16-year-olds. Heavy quadricycles have a higher weight and unrestricted top speed with some able to reach 100 kph (62 mph).
The tests performed by Euro NCAP were on the latter heavy quadricycles but there is nothing to indicate that the lighter variety is constructed to be any safer than its heavier counterpart and is arguably of greater concern since it is aimed at a more vulnerable market of younger and less experienced drivers.
Whilst the top speed of such models is low, the impact severity of a collision can nonetheless be extremely high depending on the speed of any other vehicles involved in the collision.
Euro NCAP assessment
The requirements on safety of quadricycles are different to the standards which passenger cars have to meet and Euro NCAP has introduced a star rating for these vehicles in order to help buyers to make choices within the model ranges available. If the same star rating as that employed on passenger cars was used, they would all fail to achieve any acceptable star rating and wouldn’t provide consumers with any useful information on which to base a choice.
According to Euro NCAP, the safety equipment fitted to such vehicles is sparse and there has been little improvement in safety since it last conducted tests in 2014.
At that time, major shortcomings in safety were highlighted and Euro NCAP called for more realistic requirements from the regulators and for quadricycle manufacturers to take more responsibility for the safety of their products. Since then, more quadricycles have come onto the market and an updated European regulation has come into force. This resetting of regulatioins has given Euro NCAP the ability to revisit the safety offered in the segment.
Assessments were made on four vehicles, the Aixam Crossover GTR, the Bajaj Qute, the Chatenet CH30 and the Microcar M.GO Family. All of these four vehicles were assessed using the same protocols that were used in 2014 when testing the first quadricycles.
While some vehicles perform better than others, the standard of protection offered to the driver is still generally very low, leading to serious risks in collisions with other vehicles or obstacles.
Some progress was shown by the Microcar M.GO as this is the only one that is fitted with a driver airbag. However, the equipment is only available as an option and was shown to be ineffective. This ineffectiveness is largely due to the fact that there has been no improvement in the structural integrity of the vehicle and so therefore the airbag offers no increased protection.
Quadricycles unfit for purpose
Expressing his disappointment that quadricycles still lack the basic safety features that are common in small cars, Euro NCAP’s Secretary General, Dr Michiel van Ratingen, commented, “By not challenging the manufacturers to do more, legislators continue to give a false impression to consumers that these vehicles are fit for purpose.”
Despite looking like small city cars and competing for sales in that segment, quadricycles are still not subject to the same legislation and their performance in Euro NCAP’s tests is far below a similarly-sized passenger car which can be bought second-hand more cheaply.
It would not be difficult to improve the safety performance of the vehicles though. Dr Van Ratingen added, “Simple design changes could lead to significant improvements, with little added weight or cost. Pursuing an environmental agenda is not an excuse for unsafe vehicles. Therefore Euro NCAP again calls for safety to be prioritised for heavy quadricycles.”
Ratifying the opinions of Euro NCAP and adding his organisation’s weight to the drive for improved standards in quadricycles, Global NCAP’s Director General, David Ward said, “Quadricycles have significant potential for sales in markets across the world and it’s essential that minimum safety standards are put in place and that consumers are made aware of their safety shortcomings”