Car interiors

Car interiors

The main aims of the report will be to:

  • Provide an overview of the current requirements in respect of car interiors and show how they differ from those required for upholstered furniture.
  • Examine why the current situation exists.
  • Outline and compare the current regimes of flammability testing for both interior furnishings and car interiors.
  • Analyse statistical datato assess fire causes, materials involved and resulting casualties/ fatalities.
  • Draw relevant conclusions.



(This must include the list of bibliographic references from/on which it is proposed to start/base the project and an indication of the facilities needed/available. Include relationship to previous work)

Motor vehicle interiors contain a number of materials that can burn when exposed to an ignition source. The proportion of flammable materials used in cars has increased considerably in recent years with the use of polymers in bodywork, interior fittings and engine parts coupled with increasing quantities of cables and accessories.Combustible plastics and composites in cars have increased from an average of 9kg per vehicle in 1960, to 91kg in 1966 and 136kg currently.The fire safety requirements for materials used in vehicles have not changed during this period.The authors of ‘Improving Survivability in Motor Vehicle Fires' go on to say that they consider FMVSS 302 to be no longer of relevance to automobile fire safety, preferring a system determining a vehicle's fireworthiness in a similar manner to that used for its crashworthiness. This project intends to examine the current UK regulations in respect of upholstered furniture, assessing whether or not they should be applied to car interiors, particularly headlining and seating.

The main factors justifying this research are:

  • Automobile fires are among the largest causes of fire deaths in the USA after fires in residences. (About 500 fatalities annually)
  • Current flammability requirements for car interiors are based on experiments conducted in the 1960's and make no allowance for the increased use of combustible materials in modern vehicles.
  • The flammability requirements assume the primary threat to be ignition of combustible interior materials by a lighted cigarette and do not consider the more likely scenario of an impact-induced fire(due to more widespread adoption of fuel injection by vehicle manufacturers etc).
  • The adoption of an updated standard for flammability of car interiors would result in a lesser likelihood of fire spread from the vehicle of origin to those adjacent, especially in scenarios such as enclosed car parks.
  • The current guidelines for design fire scenarios could probably be revised to reflect the lower degree of vehicle flammability resulting from the adoption of a more realistic standard together with the reduced level of Heat Release Rate. This could in turn allow architects and building designers more freedom resulting in more innovative buildings where these incorporate enclosed car parks.

Outline plan / Programme


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Application for safety and ethical approval for all projects

Faculty of Science and Technology

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Refer to the relevant documents from the following links:

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The form and linked guidance

1 Project synopsis

1.1 Title

Should the current flammability and flame propagation requirements for upholstered furnishings be applied to car interiors?

1.2 Project type

Original research


Research degree

PG taught

UG taught


1.3Short description
in layman's terms [no acronyms or jargon]

Analysis of current standards for ignitability and flame propagation of car interiors and discussing whether they are suitable and sufficient, or indeed relevant, and whether the standards currently applied to upholstered furnishings should also apply to cars.

1.4 Dates

Start Oct 2009

End May 2010

1.5 School of …..

Forensic and Investigative Sciences

2 Participants

2.1 Project supervisor /principal investigator:
name, position
and signature

Hugh Macleod: Student

2.2 Co-workers:
names and positions

[eg student]

3 External collaborators

3.1 List external collaborating bodies

3.2 Provide evidence of ethical approvals obtained by external collaborators

3.3 Provide evidence of confidentiality agreements reached with external collaborators

Read any associated procedures and guidance or follow any associated checklist, and delete, Yes or No, for each characteristic in A) to F) below.

If you respond No, then in your judgment you believe that the characteristic is irrelevant to the activity.

If you respond Yes, then you should provide relevant documentation [including risk assessments] with the application, and cross-reference to it, eg A2 or B9. Use reference numbers of standard forms, protocols and approaches and risk assessments where they exist.

A) Does the activity involve field work or travel to unfamiliar places? If Yes:

  1. Does the activity involve field work or leaving the campus [eg overseas]?
  2. Does the field work involve a ‘party' of participants or working alone?
  3. Does the activity involve children visiting from schools?

A) Yes/No

1. No

2. No

3. No

B) Does the activity involve humans other than the investigators? If Yes:

1. Will the activity involve any external organisation for which separate and specific ethics clearance is required (e.g. NHS; school; any criminal justice agencies including the Police, CPS, Prison Service)? - start this now [CRB clearance process at Loughborough; Uclan contact Carole Knight]

2. Does the activity involve participants who are unable to give their informed consent (e.g. children, people with severe learning disabilities, unconscious patients etc.) or who may not be able to give valid consent (e.g. people experiencing mental health difficulties)?

3. Does the activity require participants to give informed consent? [consent guidance]

4. Does the activity raise issues involving the potential abuse or misuse of power and authority which might compromise the validity of participants' consent (e.g. relationships of line management or training)?

5. Is there a potential risk arising from the project of physical, social, emotional or psychological harm to the researchers or participants?

6. Does the activity involve the researchers and/or participants in the potential disclosure of any information relating to illegal activities; the observation of illegal activities; or the possession, viewing or storage (whether in hard copy of electronic format) which may be illegal?

7. Will deception of the participant be necessary during the activity?

8. Does the activity (e.g. art) aim to shock or offend?

9. Will the activity involve invasion of privacy or access to confidential information about people without their permission?

10. Does the activity involve medical research with humans, clinical trials or use human tissue samples or body fluids?

11. Does the activity involve excavation and study of human remains?

B) Yes/No

1. No

2. No

3. No

4. No

5. No

6. No

7. No

8. No

9. No

10. No

11. No

C) Does the activity involve animals and other forms of life? If Yes:

1. Does the activity involve scientific procedures being applied to a vertebrate animal (other than humans) or an octopus?

2. Does the activity involve work with micro-organisms?

3. Does the activity involve genetic modification?

4. Does the activity involve collection of rare plants?

C) Yes/No

1. No

2. No

3. No

4. No

D) Does the activity involve data about human subjects? If Yes:

1. After using the data protection compliance checklist, have you any data protection requirements?

2. After answering the data protection security processing questions, have you any security requirements>?

D) Yes/No

1. No

2. No

E) Does the activity involve hazardous substances? If Yes:

1. Does the activity involve substances injurious to human or animal health or to the environment? Substances must be disposed properly.

2. Does the activity involve igniting, exploding, heating or freezing substances?

E) Yes/No

1. No

2. No

F) Other activities:

1. Does the activity relate to military equipment, weapons or the Defence Industry?

2. Are you aware of any ethical concerns about the company/ organisation, e.g. its product has a harmful effect on humans, animals or the environment; it has a record of supporting repressive regimes; does it have ethical practices for its workers and for the safe disposal of products?

F) Yes/No

1. No

2. No

Note: in all cases funding should not be accepted from tobacco-related industries

Approval given by

Sign below

UG project supervisor

No issues

UG project supervisor

Follow standard procedures

specified below

The Committee

No conditions

The Committee

Conditions attached

Cmte application number

If you respond Yes, then you should provide relevant documentation with the application, and cross-reference to it, eg A2 or B9. Use reference numbers of standard forms, protocols and approaches and risk assessments where they exist.

Original [not electronic] signatures are needed before approval is given.

Send the complete documentation to a

Department Administrator in your
School Office

These standard forms are being followed [cross reference to the characteristic, eg A2]:

The dissertation will include:

An analysis of the testing regime carried out to satisfy the requirements of FMVSS

302, and an explanation of the differences between this standard and the testing

regimes adopted by some major automobile manufacturers (General Motors, VW/

Audi and Daimler/Benz have introduced more prescriptive standards).

  • An analysis of the mechanisms of flame spread.
  • An analysis of spray fires (eg fuel from fuel injection apparatus being sprayed onto

hot surfaces in engine compartment following the rupture of fuel lines).

  • An analysis of the burning of hydrocarbons, polycarbons, plastics and foams.
  • Tenability calculations for persons trapped within a burning motor vehicle.
  • Toxicology analysis of smoke from burning motor parts.
  • Analysis of the flammability and flame propagation tests carried out on upholstered

furniture to satisfy the requirements of BS 5867 Furniture and Furnishings (Fire)

(Safety) Regulations 1988.

  • Discussion as to whether the requirements of BS 5867 could feasibly be
  • extended to include car interior furnishings, focussing on,
  • Life safety implications
  • Cost implications
  • Market forces (eg Volvo's successful ‘Safety First' campaign)

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