BMW i3 vs Cadillac CTS – Impact Results

FEB 22 2016 BY WARREN M 79

Picture of my i3 after being rear ended by a Cadillac CTS

Picture of my i3 after being rear ended by a Cadillac CTS

Yesterday I was rear ended by a driver who sped through a stop sign and apparently didn’t notice me in front of him. His Cadillac hit me so hard I ended up 175 feet from the point of impact.

The impact was so hard that the center console arm rest flipped straight up and broke the latch. My seat back was even bent with the rear cover popping off.  So a violent crash to say the least. But with no broken bones or cuts, this could have been much worse for me. They took away the passengers in the Cadillac by ambulance also, but there condition is still unknown at time of press, though obviously their airbags deployed.

Cadillac CTS after impact

Cadillac CTS after impact

Remarkably, the BMW doors all open and shut normally. Even the rear hatch released with the remote and closed normally.

While lying in the ambulance, I heard the first responders saying “I can’t believe how bad the Cadillac looks compared to that BMW!”

A testament to the safety engineering that went into the BMW i3.  Kind of sad this happened to my BMW which was less than 2 months old with 1600 miles on the odometer; and I don’t look forward to the hassle of dealing with the other driver’s insurance company to get me on the road again.

Editor’s Note:  Out of some concern we did follow up with Warren today when we heard this news, just to check in on his status, and he reported back he was A-OK

“…im okay. Ambulance was a precaution because of sore neck, ankle, and elbow. Did a cat scan at the hospital, nothing was broken. Took some muscle relaxant at the hospital and pain medicine. Feared I would feel horrible when waking up this morning, but okay. I plann on taking it easy for the rest of the weekend to make sure the aches and pain go away.  Considering how light the i3 BEV is compared to a CTS, it fared pretty well.”

My i3 ended up 173 feet from the point of impact

My i3 ended up 173 feet from the point of impact

Spot where the Cadillac came to rest

Spot where the Cadillac came to rest

The violent force bent the seat back and dislodged the seat back cover. Center armrest went straight up, with the lid latch broken

The violent force bent the seat back and dislodged the seat back cover. Center armrest went straight up, with the lid latch broken

As is often the case, Warren’s most recent modification on the car, a nifty rear bumper modification (which you can read about here), appears to have taken the brunt of the impact.

Categories: BMW, Crashed EVs

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79 Comments on "BMW i3 vs Cadillac CTS – Impact Results"

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Terrible news! Glad that Warren is ok, and I hope for speedy recovery for others. I was excited for Warren on his i3, sad to see it go so soon.

It seems crumple zone in front of Caddy is more pliable than i3 rear, even with all that metal (gas engine). It looks like Caddy will be total loss whereas i3 might be fixable.

With the force of that impact, I’m sure there is a lot of damage you can’t see…
But it’ll make a great parts car for someone!

The Cadillac folded like a cheap tent…Glad everyone was un-injured

“Crumple zones are designed to absorb the energy from the impact during a traffic collision by controlled deformation.”

It should fold up. The point is to reduce the g-forces of impact.

we are aware…………

No way is the i3 fixable… Will be totaled for sure with that level of impact (based on drivers description).

BMW looks very intact .. the cadillac not so much..there is a difference between crumble zones & aluminum foil..The cadillac needs the crumble zones Beefed Up some. There is TOOOO Much Un-necessary Give…

The right amount of give is the maximum amount that reduces the impact to the passengers, while not intruding into the passenger area. What part of the crumple that you see do you think is unnecessary? Do you honestly think that it should have crumpled less, thereby injuring the passengers more? Why?

After those pictures, its not hard to see that the BMW is a very safe car. The Cadillac id what it was supposed to do, crumple, but from the picture its hard so see if the crumpling was done safely.

No way you can tell that by the pictures. The real question is the g-forces… throw away the car to have lower g-forces. I expected the i3 to have a better crumple zone.

Luckily, he had 175 feet of clearance after impact – if he was pushed into traffic going across or into another car, there would be a secondary impact that may be much worse.

And airbags.

First, hope the other driver is okay. Second, I’m interested in how the i3 absorbs impact and keeps that energy from harming the driver. In this case it was, perhaps, better that it bounced instead of crumpled, but had there been a car in front of the i3, I’m concerned about how the driver would fare vs. a more conventional car.

The i3 scored very well in NCAP crash testing, specifically for driver and passenger crash protection. It even scored higher than the Model S in those categories.

The various testing agencies don’t test rear-end collisions. We won’t know how the i3 does except by individual results such as this.

…don’t test rear collisions…

Rear crash test @

Insane Electric Torque

Like I said before i3 is like soap-dish on wheels. The egg is hard but fragile inside.

Poultry in motion.. l m a o

Read the comment above yours. i3 scored higher than Model S on passenger protection.

But does any crash test you refer to incorporate a rear-end collision such as this?

BTW,, was rear Ended 6 times …N0 Joke about it. The Effects last Forever. I just don’t like to dwell on it & make things worst .

you’ve been rear ended 6 times? Seriously, do American drivers simply not look where they’re going?

Canadians Don’t look where they’re going & 2 of them were DRUNK…maybe the beer here is tooo strong…after after hands still numb up..

This is why I’m a huge advocate of automatic braking systems. We’re not all Mario Andretti or Jeff Gordon out there.

Stronger beer would also explain your random use of the Caps Lock button while typing.

Thanks Again sven.

as Always, your negative Input Is invaluable.?

Did anyone else notice that the driver’s side appears to be pretty heavily damaged? You can see the panel bowing outward–just curious how that side of the car looks.

The author said that the rear hatch still functions. I believe it’s repairable. The Caddy, probably not. Hopefully all the occupants will be OK. We are not very repairable. Injuries do come back to haunt you as we age.

This is as expected. The front of the car is a crumple zone; the back is not. Thus, the front of the CTS crumbled and the back of the i3 did not.

Hope all ok.

A similar rear-ending is how i now describe P85D acceleration. It’s more like an accident, than another car.

Just happy to hear you’re ok, Warren. That’s really all that matters.


The i3 did its job. Hope you are back in a new one soon Warren.

I’ll happily join this chorus!

Glad you were not seriously injured, Warren.

Yes. As other have said. Hope you are all OK. Cars can be replaced. I’m not surprised at all that the #BMWi3 has such little damage. Modern Techology will always win over old technology.

I think NHTSA and NCAP make a major mistake when testing front crashes by not including a test in witch the care is braking for the last seconds. The reason for this kind of test is that the car performs different when braking, the front of the care is leaning and the back is getting higher. the center of gravity is shifting forward in this way putting more stress on different components. I have been involved in such a crash and none of the safety features worked except for seat belts. No airbag deployed when I rear ended a car because that car had a shorter braking distance then my car. The damage to my car was extensive but only over the bumper (grille, headlamps, hood, fenders). The other car was an SUV with a bigger ground clearance them my car, the damage to the other car was located only in the lower and underneath the rear bumper aria. The SUV was braking too at the moment of the crash and it was leaning forward with the back higher then normal when I rear ended it. I think if the crash happened at greater speed in the same condition I… Read more »

Didn’t BMW just withdraw the American i3 sport, for reasons that included suspension (too low)? Your point is well taken, and bumper height rules are different, US vs. Euro.

Very sorry this happened to you Warren. Glad the i3 protected you so well! Don’t forget to include in the insurance claim the cost of getting a new bumper panel on your new i3! Stay safe.

A regola si è fatta meno la i3, spero non si sia fatto davvero male qualcuno degli occupanti dei due veicoli…

Interesting. Seems a good deal of energy of the impact was transferred to kinetic energy moving the i3. Was the driver’s foot on the brake? What is the status of the drivetrain?

doug asked:

“Was the driver’s foot on the brake?”

Which driver? If you mean Warren, the violent impact would have thrown him backward — note the damage to the seat — which would have removed his foot from the brake pedal. So yeah, that’s why the car rolled 175 feet; there probably wasn’t any braking involved after the impact.

That’s not just physics; I write from my own experience when the car I was driving was rear-ended.

I wonder if the aggressive regen of the i3 would actually help in this situation. With the brake basically being automatically applied partially with the strong regen when no feet are on any pedal.

I am absolutely gobsmacked that a collision that violent — just look at the Caddy! — didn’t even break the rear window of the i3.

The next time someone claims that the CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer) body of the i3 is brittle and will shear or snap on impact, I’ll simply give him a raspberry!

CFRP is carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, not polymer. Anyone who claims it’s brittle is an idiot, plain and simple. It’s very strong.

Am I a half – idiot?

It can be brittle AND strong… Can’t it?

Well it’s a composite… Plastics (yes most (all) plastic is polymer…) can have very very very differing properties… They can be stretchable (think household foil for food) and can be brittle (think Plexiglas) heck they can even have differing modules of deformation for different axes (quite high tech) furthermore their properties change extremely depending on how far they are from glass transition temperature. I won’t start to talk about additives and side effects…

Carbon fibre also has different modules of deformation for different axes. Different fibre strengths can be used. Different geometry of fibre grid also has an influence…

I doubt anyone here has deep enough insight into the exact composition of that composites BMW uses to make any claim about the physical properties.

To put it simple: BMW (or the company which developed the composite) did a good job to protect Warren. That’s the one thing that matters.

It looked like the Caddy was braking hard and slid under the i3 a bit. That would explain the (1) long distance to stop [with only 2 wheels on the ground (2) rear window not being shattered (3) relatively small amount of damage to the fascia of the rear bumper. There could be a lot more damage to the underside of the i3, especially if it was a REx.

PP, if you knew how it was built you’d know the alum frame took most of the forces.
CF is more brittle and personally as a composite expert I wouldn’t use it in cars.
Instead FG and Kevlar like reinforcement fibers and lots of foam are much better in a crash, weigh and costs less.
Will, it is a polymer resin as most if not all plastics are.
Fact is 1/3 of the CF is in nylon like plastic in the i3.

You should give a call to BMW and tell them how little they know.

franky,, Frankly I’ve been at it longer than they have with 50 yrs of composite vehicle design, and production.
Fact is compared to what I normally build, a car is a small lightly loaded vehicle.
For instance no reason BMW couldn’t build the i3 in 1500lbs or so if they left off the overweight alum frame/batterybox and crash structures.
Designed right there is no need for the alum as composites can handle all loads better designed right at 60% of the weight, cost.
And they are corporate engineers driven by fear and not great bosses doing some things the corporation doesn’t want to do, composites and EV’s.

Nice, but very disconcerting that the i3 ended up 175 ft from the point of impact. I think that’s mainly why it faired so well. It’s lighter so it basically got pushed away instead of crumpling. It’s a good thing it wasn’t pushed into a busy intersection or in front of a train…

Do not be deceived folks, the picture does not reveal the whole story here. Having worked with carbon fiber and fiber glass and aluminum on aircraft for years as a structural mechanic (Coast Guard) not all damage shows immediately. Think for a moment if you will if you slide an aluminum can into the back of a big wet sponge with force. Both are going to give depending on the impact but how much energy travels away from the initial impact area and how much will the materials spring back to their original shape is different, and as we see here BOTH systems did their job well –Protect the occupants at all cost. Yes the caddy looks bad, it is supposed to, remember save the people not your pride. The Beemer’s carbon fibers are broken I guarantee but they will snap back sometimes close to the original position but still be broken. Reason for replacing a “skid lid” following any cycle accident (peddle or motor) because not all damage is visible. Good thing most of the energy was dissipated on the rear end and did not travel and split the car into sections like the “good ol days” and spill… Read more »

I’m confused about the drivers thoughts of dealing with the other insurance company? I don’t know about the US, but here in Australia, as long as you are insured, you would only make acclaim with your own insurance company and then they will chase it all up, isn’t that what your paying for???? It doesn’t even matter if they are in-I sired, your car gets fixed, and your insurance will spend time suing them.

Not quite, not even in Oz, AFAIK from renting there.
You can submit a claim to your own insurance company, as you suggest, only if you have comprehensive insurance, but that’s not a legal requirement anywhere I’m familiar with.

Most countries/states require only 3d-party medical liability (that is, damage to other drivers/passengers/pedestrians/cyclists), sometimes also 1st-party medical (damage to you) and, rarely, also 3d-party property damage, but that wouldn’t cover damage to the car itself.

Now most likely Warren does have comprehensive, since the i3 is a somewhat expensive, new, car.
However, all car insurance policies I’ve ever encountered raise rates by quite a bit in case of any accident-related claim (no matter who was at fault), or have a hefty deductible (over here it’s typically $500-$1000), usually both. That means that at the very least one should consider making a claim against the at-fault driver and/or his/her insurance, before submitting a claim to one’s own.

On the positive side, there was absolutely zero passenger zone intrusion. That is very, very good.

“The impact was so hard that the center console arm rest flipped straight up and broke the latch. My seat back was even bent with the rear cover popping off.”

A larger crumple zone MAY have reduced how much energy was transmitted into the passenger compartment. Stuff in the passenger compartment being impacted that severely is not a really good sign.

I wonder if the Cadillac driver would have seen him if he still had the white bumper..?

I was thinking those exact thoughts several weeks ago when I saw the blacked-out rear end of a BMW i3 in my neighborhood. I want to be seen.

That was my thought as well. It looks a lot less visible in photos after the bumper modification.

All this shows is that the i3 doesn’t have a rear crumple zone. If it had been reversed, the Caddy would not have been tossed hundreds of feet out. Instead, it would have taken the damage in the rear. That’s what cars are supposed to do. Cars that maintain their shape the way the i3 did in this crash will result in drivers turning to goo on the inside if the crash is more severe.

Warren, great to see you’re OK, like Tom said above – truly what is most important.

There is innuendo here that the i3 was super tough, and it seems it’s structure did work for such a small car to retain it’s shape with doors opening. In a rear end collision there is not closing speed of two cars heading towards one another combined. This helps a lot, especially – as others have said, in a situation where the small car has no large crumple zone. I think both cars worked as designed – to the benefit of you all.

Warren – keep us posted on the end result to your i3. In other words, the cost of repair or if your car was a total in the eyes of your insurance company.

As Pushmi said – the force of impact pushed Warren and his seat back, bending the seat and lifting his foot off any pedals. This was a good thing – and a good thing nobody was in front of Warren, causing a chain reaction pileup. This allowed Warren’s i3 to be punted forward a long way! This is better than hitting a stationary object that doesn’t move, it’s a “smack”, rather than a “smash”, if that makes sense. A 2014 CTS is 4072 lbs. with V-6, compared to the i3’s 3571 lbs. as BEV/ 3813 with ReX. So if the driver in front can avoid a neck or spinal injury, it can be seen how this could have turned out worse in different circumstances, i.e.- more speed and/or car in front stuck in traffic. Smaller car = smaller crumple area = more shock on impact. It makes one ponder the upcoming Bolt EV. Similar or slightly smaller car – Honda Fit sized, with not a whole lot of space between rear “bumper” ( if you can call those bumpers ) and rear passenger area. Me? I like crumple zones. The sheer space allows for a progressive absorbtion of the crash… Read more »

I think the 170 ft of rolling is what helpped.

If the i3 was locked in place, the damage to the i3 would have been far worse as all the momentum would have been transferred to the i3 as it is lighter than the CTS by a huge margin.

Either way, I am glad both drivers are doing okay.

This is “Jake” from state farm. Please tell the readers how your car really held up in this accident. I believe your car is totaled. Those pictures are completely misleading and you know it. Please provide an additional photo of the carbon fiber plastic structure damage. Your appliance on wheels does not impress me.

Warren, can you give us an update on your car? I’m deciding whether or not the i3 will be safe for my pocketbook if I decide to lease or purchase the car.

Warren, did your body shop take on the repair. Very curious to see the cost of having the i3 repaired due to this type of accident. I have watched the numerous youtube videos of government testing, but I’m not convinced the i3 will hold up well when subjected to real world accidents verses staged in house testing. Please keep us updated on the progress of the repairs. Your car and photos have been added to the facebook page for i3 vehicles to see if there are others who may have sustained identical damage and their feedback results from insurance companies and whether they were forced to deal with BMW body shops or had the option to choose a local independent body shop.