Crumple Zones are the passive safety features and is considered to be the most important invention in the history of automobile industry. If you own a car you must know about everything which makes an essential part of your vehicle. We have already explained about the modern car safety technologies that you can go through along with the details of a particular model. However, crumple zones are the structural components which are not visible or listed down among the features, yet have a crucial role to play in ensuring car safety.

So we are here to inform you about the basic concept of crumple zones and their effectiveness in reducing injury. For this let’s start with the definition of crumple zones followed by the physics involved in the process.

What are Crumple Zones?

Crumple Zones can be defined as the structural areas usually located at the front and rear portions of an automobile. These are designed to absorb the energy from an impact during the situation of collision through controlled deformation in a predictable manner.

What is crumple-zones

Basically it doesn’t let the occupants suffer from the after effects of a collision so as to avoid serious injuries. In general terms, it’s the range between the driving seat and the front bumper. The more is the length of this area, the more time it would take for the impact to reach the occupants.

History of Crumple Zones

Earlier, the vehicles were designed in a rigid way and hence during a collision it didn’t allow any deformation in the vehicle’s body. As a result, all the force got transferred to the occupants thereby leading to serious injuries or even deaths.

History of Crumple Zones

In 1953, an engineer from Mercedes Benz named Bela Barenyi came up with this crumple zone technology which was implemented in the brand’s W120 model series. Later in 1967, Mercedes Heckflosse was introduced as the world’s first car to carry a safety cage with crumple zones along with a 50% bigger trunk.

Physics of Crumple Zones

There are two theories involved in the crumple zone mechanism that all of have studied in Physics. According to Newton’s first law, an object in motion stays in motion and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Similarly when we look at the example of a car, if it is travelling at a distance of 50 miles/hour, the people inside it are also moving at the same speed.

Hence if there is a collision with a solid wall, the occupants will still be moving until and unless stopped by an external element. Even if the people try to stop themselves, their body organs won’t stop moving forward. This could lead to severe mishaps.

As per Newton’s second law of motion – 

Force= mass X acceleration

When implied to this situation, the time taken by the vehicle to stop or change direction is inversely proportional to the force felt by the vehicle. This means that if the time is shorter, the force is greater and vice versa.

Crumple zones help in absorbing the impact and distribute it to the cabin so that the force felt by the car is less thereby adding more time.

How do Crumple Zones Reduce injury

Crumple zones allow the front portion of a car to fold like an accordion and hence absorbing a major portion of the impact. The rest of it is given away in the form of heat and sound. The front portion acts as a cushion and reduces the time taken by the vehicle to come at a halt. This can reduce the force felt by the occupants and ultimately there would be less chance of damage. If the crumple zone is constructed from light weight components, it leads to absorption of energy as well as makes the automobile weigh less.

Earlier it was believed that the stronger is the body structure of a car the more safe it will be. But with those rigid designs, the force failed to deform the vehicle and maximum effect was passed on to the occupants which led to severe accidents. However now we know that using light weight materials is more helpful in offering safety to the passengers. Nowadays, the composite drive shafts are made of carbon and polymer fibre that can break into smaller fragments.

Check Out This Video To Understand More Batter

What about Small Cars?

Small cars are compact in size and hence their front portion is not too lengthy. As a result, it is difficult to build in the crumple zones in such vehicles. For example Tata Nano has no space at the front and hence there is very less scope for a crumple zone setup.

Small cars Crumple ZonesOn the other hand, most of the sedans are longer at the front end particularly in brands like Mercedes and BMW.

However the engineers have found out a way for that also. If we look at the smart cars, these are built with steel bumpers at the front & rear that are connected to the tridion safety cell’s longitudinal beams through slip tubes. Up to 10 miles/hour, the slip tubes displace so as to keep the impact away from the safety cell. At a higher speed, the cell transmits the impact over the entire surface to reduce the effect of energy thereby protecting the occupants from any possible harm.


With the rising safety concerns, all authorities have made strict norms and regulations which have to be qualified by all the cars before they are available for the customers. Nowadays there are various kinds of crash tests that are hard to pass. In such a situation, the presence of crumple zones has become indispensable for all kinds of automobiles.

Owing to this, many automakers are now utilising material like extra strong steel and Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP). Even the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) has stated that the vehicles should be built with softer end structures with maximum crush feature so as to protect the occupants.

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