Op-Ed: BMW Looks To Have The Safest EV On the Market With The i3

FEB 21 2014 BY DSCHURIG 92

The BMW i3 Has Clearly Been Designed With A Premium Put On Safety

The BMW i3 Has Clearly Been Designed With A Premium Put On Safety

The fatality rate for automotive accidents has been steadily declining over the last several decades, down 60% since 1969. The total number of motor vehicle deaths has also decreased over that span. Amazingly enough that is very shortly after the automotive manufacturer rattling book by Ralph Nader “Unsafe At Any Speed” hit the bookstands. A number of OEM safety features have contributed to the decline.

US Motor Vehicle Deaths (chart via Wikipedia)

US Motor Vehicle Deaths V Population (chart via Wikipedia)

Certainly safety belts were some of the earliest safety features and they have continued to improve over the years. Anti-lock brakes were then introduced which reduced braking distances. Shortly thereafter the first air bags appeared in American automobiles although they were not widely available until the 1990s. During this time, the OEMs developed the concept of crumple zones to reduce the amount of energy transferred to occupants. More air bags throughout the interior have been added over the years.

BMW i3 - Doors Open

BMW i3 – Doors Open

A number of other incremental safety features were incorporated into automotive design for safety including soft interior surfaces, rigid passenger safety cells and pre-tensioning safety belts. Virtually all of these provisions for safety were centered around increasing accident survivability and reducing injury in the event of an accident and the data shows that they have worked magnificently.

In recent years the focus has been on accident prevention – how to impart more control in a variety of driving situations to allow for accident avoidance either by acceleration or braking intervention. Known as pre-crash systems or collision mitigating systems, BMW has absolutely kept pace with the development and implementation of such automotive features. With cameras, radar sensors, yaw sensors, accelerometers etc., the i3 has every kind of physical sensing available on modern vehicles. With these on board sensors, the i3 has taken safety to a new level. There is nothing safer for being in an accident than preventing the accident in the first place – that is the future. Would you rather be in the most protective vehicle on the planet in an accident or not be in the accident at all?

The list of these pre-crash safety provisions on a late model BMW is long and they included all of them in the design of the BMW i3. I provide here a table comparing pre-crash safety features as found on all of the EVs available for sale in America (some of them in California only)

Safety Provision List (Updated)

Safety Provision List (Updated)

For definitions of BMW i3 safety features see here.  For clarification of NCAP crash test score see here.

Categories: BMW


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92 Comments on "Op-Ed: BMW Looks To Have The Safest EV On the Market With The i3"

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I have to wonder, with all of this talk about safety, how many people buy a car because of safety features? I’ve heard of some people buying big trucks and SUVs over a perceived feeling of safety. But I’m not sure how many people actually consider safety ratings and such when making a purchase decision. I’ll be honest, I don’t. It doesn’t even cross my mind.

You are probably right about people not selecting a vehicle for its high safety rating. However, BMW is introducing a carbon fiber EV that will be getting a lot of reviews. BMW is smart to pile on the safety features. If the vehicle gets a bad reputation for safety, that would be a problem. While they won’t select for high safety, buyers will avoid the car if they think it is unsafe. If a car had a reputation for being a crash hazard or a death trap, would you buy it at any price?

I know several people who will only buy 5 star rated vehicles. Personally, I consider it important in the top 5.

Given the stats, it’s still safer to run around like a maniac during an electrical storm than getting in your car and driving…of course, if everyone did that, then the stats might get worse…a matter of prevention. 😉

…or better as the lightning would likely hit the taller maniac running next to you instead 😉

Unfortunately, that would be me!

Appearance is huge for many people, which makes me wonder how the i3 will sell…call me superficial, but I can’t get past that strange, goofy appearance…what the hell were they thinking? I had been expecting a sleak, compact hatch version of a 3-series…not a bubble car with a barely-distinguishable BMW grille…maybe it looks better in person?

It does.

You’re superficial. 😀

More seriously, I think the look will grow on people. I think it looks cool and futuristic.

The i3 looks a lot better in person i did not like it at first seeing only pictures but once i got behind the wheel and was around in its pretty cool looking. Standouts on the road. Everyone was looking at it when i was driving.

I wouldn’t have gotten 2 smart cars if they weren’t safe. Only ignorant people say there not safe. I did my research on them unlike 99% of people that speak about them that know nothing.

I never think about not being safe while driving my smart… because i am safe and its not a thought nor concern because the car is too damn fun to drive. It’s also actually safer than most midsize cars as well. And with my highly advanced driving abilities a collision would be very unusual. And with its small size it would be harder to hit + having acceleration you can avoid a car hitting you or get away from something quickly.

I highly recommend that everyone should test drive the Smart ED, it is an underrated performer. Quicker than the Volt. A true mini go kart, and one with style (if you choose the right color)

Car and Driver, in its recent EV comparo (March 2014) didn’t think much of the Smart EV. It ranked sixth out of six EVs. They called the handling “bizarre” and said that “Even if you never leave the city, where the Smart is designed to thrive, you’ll live in fear of hard stops, hard rights, and curved on-ramps.” They concluded, “If this is the de facto poster boy for the class, the class needs a new poster.”


I have seen only a few reviews by any car publication that so thoroughly dismissed a vehicle.

Of course.

I’ve purchased around 10 cars in my time (so far) and every time we’ve looked at the safety ratings. Most of the time we are not even considering below 5 stars euro ncap… There have been one or two other main reasons, but that’s because there hasn’t been any alternative with 5 stars.

The I3 has only 4 stars in NCAP, Nissan Leaf 5 stars. And the Tesla Model S is clearly the safest because of much damage zone and weight.
What will be about opening the doors in the i3 by sidecrash…

and eSaab has 5 stars in EuroNCAP

Crash test for i3 4 stars, not so good thought.

same as the Smart ED

How did this shameless swill get posted here?

Let’s see the i3 launch off a pedestrian ramp at 100 MPH, slam through the top of a wall, crash into a tree, and let’s see the occupants get out and walk away, and THEN you might be TIED for “safest EV on the market”

Darren Schurig: the Danny King of Inside EVs. I will waste no more time on you or anything you write.

The post is clearly labelled as Op-Ed, which means it’s the opinion of the writer. This is not presented as solely a factual article. Rather, it uses facts to support the writer’s opinion.

A tittle with “The Safest EV On the Market” comes with expectations. Listing a bunch of “breaking” technology does not make a comprehensive evaluation on safety, even if just an opinion piece. Sad 🙁

BTW: Since when did “safety” become an “opinion” reviewed category, vs. getting a comprehensive engineered performance review. With a dozen points of ‘brake’ technology comparison, not one was vehicle stopping distance?

Dynamic Traction Control? Sure, just turn off the traction control to get unstuck an turn it back on. How is that a safety feature?

All of the friction brake features are important if one is using them heavily as in on a race track. With regeneration blended in the braking of most of these EVs they are really not that important.

The Volt has a “Pedestrian Warning” or an “Audible Pedestrian Warning” system standard.

“Smart Stop Technology”? If by that you mean throttle override by brakes, yes the Volt has that standard too.

So it seems to me this is a marketing puff piece for BMW and as such there is no expectation for it to be objective or even truthful. It is sad that InsideEVs would publish it. Thought the standards were a bit higher.

BMW marketing is so fault, in Europe they make themselves like they have invent the EV!
Hate them for manipulating with their marketing. I3 will get a flop because of pricing, doors and bad carbon production.

So basically BMW came up with a bunch of new marketing terms.

If you’re going to make a conclusion on overall safety, at the very least you need to weight these features. Surely “rear park distance control” doesn’t avoid as many deaths as a 5 star crash rating.

Darren now has 4 articles posted here at InsideEV’s. All of them are glowing i3 pieces.

The 2014 Leaf has rear view camera standard on all models.

As well as half of the other things too.

Yes, and why don’t we start adding categories? All-Around View: LEAF O, i3 ?

Park Distance Control, front, I’m sure that has helped to save many lives, because you can’t see anyone standing right in front of you in a parking lot.

If they were standing, that’s one thing…walking out from behind the rear end of an SUV, particularly at the 10-20mph most people drive in parking lots (too damn fast), you can’t react fast enough.

Brilliant, thanks for the article, Darren!

While all the safety features on the i3 are great, I agree with some of the comments that I *personally* barely look at the list of safety options on the car, but rather at the crash results. Why?

– All those safety features may give a false feeling of safety. If you fall asleep behind the wheel or had one too many, technology is *not* going to prevent you from crashing into the next tree. Yes, the crash may be less severe.
– Even if *you* are a safe driver, how about the other person that crashes into you?

The i3 did *very* well in protecting the passengers during a crash despite the “misleading” 4 out of 5 stars in the NCAP score. In that regards, the i3 is high on my list!

What this article points out to me is that BMW has several years’ worth of automotive safety and collision-avoidance knowledge and experience and is applying that to its newest model – the i3. The chart and article clearly point out that the other manufacturers, including Tesla, still have much to learn and implement in collision-avoidance technology that BMW has had for years. This is one reason I have purchased several BMWs in the past and now have an i3 on order.

As an ActiveE driver migrating to the BMW i3, I can assure you that the pedestrian warning and the city collision avoidance are a true and great advancement in safety. The BMW i3 with the city collision avoidance will detect pedestrians, bicyclist, other cars and obstructions in your path and automatically brake for you. In our area, Carlsbad Ca, numerous collisions with peds and bikes and fender benders with other cars happen. The BMW i3 will assist in preventing it’s driver from being the cause of these accidents.

It’s a giant leap for safety. Nice article Darren!

The UK where I live has around 3.6 deaths per billion vehicle kilometres travelled, whilst the US has around 8.5:

Has anyone got any idea why there is a two for one discrepancy?
I haven’t got a clue, as the roads here are not miracles of safety engineering, or the cars, and plenty of people drive as though they have never heard of a driving test.

So why do so many more get killed in the US proportionately?

It’s either global warming or gun ownership. I’m pretty sure it’s not alcohol consumption!


I would start with population, population density, and
work down to avg miles driven per trip, and what kind
of miles. Obviously avg speed has a lot to do with it.
Americans drive much !longer trips at on average, much
higher speeds.

To Americans, driving a car is literally considered a right,
not a privelage, and many more teenagers drive either
thier parents cars, or own vehicles far earlier than their
European counterparts. Cities and towns are farther
apart and attitudes towards public transportation are
night and day different from that of Europeans.

Take a look at the suburban population densities and
distribution of the USA, and your statistics will make more
sense. Also notice America’s passenger rail system is bankrupt.

‘With so much love for roads, what is the United States neglecting when it comes to road safety? To find an answer, researchers Juha Luoma and Michael Sivak dug a bit deeper into the numbers. They found several contributing factors, including relatively loose speeding, seat belt, and drunk driving enforcement, but the biggest reason was staring everyone in the face: Americans drive a lot more than others.’ And: ‘ A closer comparison with England found that the greater driving distance per licensed driver in the United States was the “main factor” in the safety disparity. For 2009, if America had the same fatality rate as the U.K., then nearly 23,000 lives would have been saved. Of these, a little more than half (12,345) were the result of distance driven per licensed driver. Urban roads played a significant role. About half the distance driven in 2009 came on city roads and streets. All told they accounted for nearly 12,500 deaths — a little more than a third of the yearly total. (Limited-access highways, in contrast, proved rather safe.) Of course there are many factors at play when it comes to road fatalities. Luoma and Sivak also considered a number of road… Read more »

The reason most do not speed on ‘urban arterial roads’ here is simple.
Enforcement is strict and cameras numerous.
You would not keep your licence long.

I’m trying to figure out why “dynamic brake control” is listed twice…

Perhaps they have decided to put them on both sides of the car…..


I’m shocked that the decline began after Nader’s book!

All this time, I thought it was the Free Market naturally correcting itself…with the automakers seeing the error of their ways and voluntarily adding safety features…………

As others have mentioned, your list of safety features
for EVs is not 100% accurate. For instance, my Volt
does have a pedestrian warning system.

Electronic nanny’s do not always equal safety. I
believe with complexity also come the propensity for

Around-view cameras are great, especially for crowded
city environs, especially parking garages. Cameras do
not, however, keep other from running into you.

I am more interested in body integrity and crash
survivability. I take this piece as a brand fan’s opinion
based on feature’s he’s read about.

The table certainly has some errors. I have iMiEV and it does have audible warning for pedestrians and rear camera is optional. I am also sure that Spark EV has traction control. In addition, the table does not list other safety features such as airbags.

Small correction. RAV4 EV has Rear View Camera as standard equipment.

As I pointed out a few times – please don’t forget the Renault Zoe in these kind of comparisons. Yes, I know it’s only available in Europe but a lot of your readers are European! Given it has pretty much all of the same features as the i3 except the active cruise control, is Euro NCAP 2013 5-star and is half the price of the i3 I think it only fair to include it in the list 🙂

Generally speaking, heavier cars have a better crash test rating than lighter cars. Accident avoidance is a great thing, and the technology is amazing, but what about the tractor trailer who loses their brakes on a steep hill and smashes into you? The active accident avoidance technologies do nothing. Same if someone side-swipes you on the freeway or blows a red light and T-bones you.

Those are the things that make me nervous in my i-MiEV. They should concern i3 drivers too. The i3’s active technologies may take the i3 driver error out of the picture (for the most part), but what about the other guy?

Unlike the current Tesla Model S, the i3 could possibly earn the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ rating. If I understand the rating system properly, only cars with active forward collision mitigation qualify. Tesla is way behind in all aspects of autonomous driving features. To my knowledge, none are offered. Also, according to HDLI (IIHS’ affiliate) lane departure warning systems are not safety devices. Their studies show no decrease in accidents in vehicles equipped with LDW systems. Active lane keeping is different.