With the Nido project, Pininfarina has chosen to rethink the current methodology of the car design process, resulting in an innovative concept, which reexamines safety in small automobiles. The Nido concept builds upon Pininfarina's grand tradition of continuous investment in research and development programs in each of the Company's areas - Design, Engineering and Manufacturing - to quickly and methodically tackle contemporary problems as they arise in the automotive industry. For example, during the 70's energy crisis, the industry looked towards aerodynamics and alternative energy sources to cut fuel consumption. Pininfarina responded by developing the CNR Energetica 1 prototype, an ideal aerodynamic body shape, and the electric powered Ecos. In the 80's Pininfarina's pioneering research into lightweight material application bore the Audi Quartz and Lancia Hit prototypes, which explored the use of new light metallic and composite materials.
The 90's witnessed to heightened environmental awareness, spawned research into recyclability of materials, improved ergonomics and more efficient vehicle packaging. Pininfarina offered solutions with the Ethos macro-project, a family of three cars with aluminium chassis, recyclable plastic bodywork and innovative, low emission internal combustion engines, highlighted by the 1995 Ethos 3EV zero emissions vehicle. More recently Pininfarina turned their attention to hybrid vehicle research in the Eta Beta and Metrocubo projects which, with reduced dimensions and modular cabins, also answered the problems of both urban and medium range usage. Today the industry is concerned with a problem that Pininfarina had already anticipated with the Sigma, Alfa Romeo P33 and Sigma Grand Prix prototypes: safety.
The Nido project dives into the concept of total design: coherent integration of all aspects of the design and engineering of the car. This concept was in fact conceived through an intense collaboration between design and engineering, two poles often opposed, with the singular goal of creating an attractive, small and safe vehicle. By focusing and redefining their respective approaches on a singular goal from day one, new innovative solutions were discovered in the overlap between the aesthetic and the technical view points. Nido demonstrates Pininfarina's ability to combine user's desires with the technical feasibility that allows the project to be built. It marks Pininfarina not only as an innovator today, but shows how Pininfarina is providing solutions for a better tomorrow.
When examining the issues of safety, we can no longer simply consider the effects of a collision on a single vehicle. Problems of incompatibility between vehicles of small and large masses in collisions have taken on a fundamental importance in automotive safety engineering. This is even more significant if we consider current development trends in cars, which are getting larger and heavier, in order to comply with increasingly severe legislation and to offer more passenger space. In this context, the safety of a small light car assumes particular relevance. For this reason, the Nido project has concentrated on the development and prototyping of new solutions involving both the structure and the design of a small two-seater car with the objective of increasing levels of safety for both the occupants and pedestrians.
The principle normally applied to protect occupants in the event of a head-on collision entails ensuring that sufficient space is maintained to accommodate the biometric parameters of the passengers, by using the programmed deformathon of components to absorb impact energy. This is achieved in part through the deformation of the front of the vehicle, in part transferring the remaining loads to the rear of the vehicle (via floor panels, side members, doors and the structure as a whole) and in part with active retention systems (seatbelts and airbags).
Applying this principle in a compact vehicle poses many more difficulties than in a larger car, as there is very limited space to accommodate crumple zones. This leads to problems in the design of structural components that comply with increasingly strict legislation. While the structure will withstand a violent impact, the very rigidity of the chassis, together with the limited space available, means that a significant proportion of the energy is transferred to the occupants. As the dimensions of the front of the vehicle cannot be increased, it is necessary to find an alternative solution to reduce the forces of deceleration acting on the occupants to levels comparable with those of larger vehicles. Rather than basing the safety characteristics of the car on its mass, as is the traditionally accepted method, Nido puts forward a new principle.
In the event of a head-on collision, the vehicle absorbs part of the energy with the deformable front section of the chassis, constructed of two metal struts with internal plastic foam absorbers. These components are shaped as truncated cones in order to dissipate the energy over the cellular sheet metal firewall, which in turn transfers the energy along the central tunnel and the side members. The remaining energy, due to the mass of the dummies and the sled, shifts the sled itself forward and compresses the two honeycomb absorbers between the rigid cell and the dashboard of the sled shell, resulting in the gradual and controlled deceleration of the dummies.
The insertion of honeycomb absorber elements between the rigid cell and the sled shell means that, in a collision, the deceleration curve for the sled is lower than the curve for the rigid cell. Additional, smaller absorber elements may also be fitted between the rear of the sled and the rigid cell, to provide occupant protection in the event of a rear-on collision. This principle, applied here in a small, rear-engined two-seater city car may also be used in a mid-engined two-seater sports car.
The essential body styling of the prototype echoes the technological content of the project: the shape and finishings convey the concept and highlight the project's consistency of shape and structure. The technological, structural and functional solutions adopted to maximise safety transpire through the vehicle's volumes as three principal elements: the rigid cell, the sled and the energy absorber. The colour scheme also contributes to emphasise the elements directly correlated to safety and confers a friendly and reassuring character to the car.
The surfaces appear as a skin stretched over a structure, thus emphasising the shape of the structure itself. The front of the vehicle is characterised graphically by horizontal lines echoing the motion of the sled shell, while the rear is more raked to confer a dynamic quality. Remaining with the rear of the vehicle, the hatch, which covers the triangular light clusters, is also the rear screen. The screen itself is hinged under the spoiler. The low waistline, very wide windscreen and transparent roof ensure excellent visibility.
Company press release, last updated before 12 / 01 / 2004
Add your comments on the Pininfarina Nido