Watch the carbon fiber Polestar 1 smash into a wall for science - Roadshow

Watch the carbon fiber Polestar 1 smash into a wall for science - Roadshow
Watch the carbon fiber Polestar 1 smash into a wall for science - Roadshow

A lot more happens at 35 mph than you might think.

Crash tests are an important part of the vehicle development process -- after all, people aren't going to crawl over themselves to buy a car that's demonstrably unsafe. Plus, it makes for some pretty sweet visuals.

Polestar announced today that it has commenced its first round of crash testing for its first car, the Polestar 1. The Polestar is unique from other Volvo-family vehicles in that its body relies on carbon-fiber reinforced polymer, in addition to the traditional steel found in most vehicle monocoques.

Carbon fiber doesn't react to stress in the same way that steel does. Steel helps spread force by crumpling and bending, dissipating much of that energy before it reaches the occupants. Carbon fiber, on the other hand, isn't meant to bend -- instead, it shatters. If you've ever seen a Formula 1 crash, that's carbon fiber at work, splintering into a trillion tiny shards, guaranteeing an annoying cleanup process for the track crew.

Crash tests aren't exactly simple to pull off. According to Volvo's video of the crash test, it took a full week of preparation to ensure everything was in place. Crash tests provide automakers with valuable data about how its vehicle responds to stresses, and it needs a wealth of equipment to ensure it captures all that data accurately. And the test is only the beginning -- after the car hits the wall, it's time to tear the whole thing apart and dive into the nitty-gritty.

"The outcome of this first crash test validates the decision to build the body of Polestar 1 in carbon fiber," said Zef van der Putten, Polestar's carbon fiber specialist, in a statement. "It also confirms that carbon fiber supports the highest safety standards." The crash test occurred at Volvo's safety center in Gothenburg, Sweden, and it saw the powerful plug-in hybrid hit its target at about 35 mph.

Polestar began assembling prototypes of its first car in early October. When it launches, it'll be Polestar's only plug-in hybrid -- its future cars will be entirely electric. But it's one hell of a plug-in hybrid, offering some 600 horsepower with an estimated electric range of 90-ish miles, which would make it the longest-range PHEV on offer. Then again, for $155,000, it had darn well better offer some class-leading figures.

35 Photos

Polestar 1 PHEV looks sleek at its Geneva Motor Show rollout

Polestar 1 configurator: Can't wait until it goes on sale? Design yours today.

Volvo XC90: If you don't have a need for speed, Volvo's non-Polestar cars are still plenty good.

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