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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David Murray

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.

John F

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?

MTN Ranger

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?

Dan Hue

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…

mr Erik

and eSaab has 5 stars in EuroNCAP


I did provide a link to Tom’s article explaining the 4 out of 5 star rating for the i3 but unfortunately it is posted at the end in small writing so I provide it here again

For clarification of NCAP crash test score see http://bmwi3.blogspot.ca/2013/11/bmw-i3-earns-4-out-of-5-rating-in-euro.html


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


Thank you for your comment. The whole point of the article is to point out that emphasize that the safest kind of accident to be in is no accident at all. The BMW safety features prevent the accident from happening in the first place do to a host of driver inputs that cause accidents. BMW, and many other high end manufacturers like Audi and Mercedes Benz, have engineered systems to help the driver stay out of accidents. Of the three, only BMW has an EV


None of these safety features will prevent another driver from destroying your car and possibly your life. I put much more trust in crash safety ratings – I can check my mirrors myself without a machine to tell me there is a car next to me. A 4 rating is “poor” by today’s car building standards. A 5 is easily obtainable to any manufacturer.

MTN Ranger

The reason it got a 4 on the Euro standard was due to not offering a standard rear seatbelt unbuckled alert and speed limit display. Pretty petty reasons.


same as the Smart ED

Rick Danger

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?


The title is “BMW LOOKS to Have the Safest EV On the Market . . .” not “The Safest EV on the Market”



Thanks Eric.


It’s awesome that the Tesla did such a miraculous job of protecting the guy once he got airborne, the point is not to get airborne in the first place.


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.


The BMW i3 may or may not hold up as well in that scenario, there is no way to know. But what is known is that the i3 has systems in place that may have prevented that accident from happening in the first place.


Friction brake features are important on the street for emergency stopping maneuvers and the i3 has multiple layers of automated, very high speed enhancements to old fashioned driver induced stopping. It will give the driver a higher percentage chance of stopping before an accident occurs.


Really?! It will also give the driver a higher chance of these systems malfunctioning or causing an unpredictable behavior like slamming on the brakes and getting rear-ended. As if brake-by-wire systems weren’t unpredictable enough. You can call that Dynamic Brake Control if you wish, I’ll call it over-engineered nonsense.


Actually these systems have proven themselves to be far more reliable than human control. Human error is the single biggest contributor to automotive accidents and related fatalities.


Since 6 items on the big chart are brake related, it overstates the degree to which the i3 is “safest”. Also, focusing only on “active” systems makes it hard to buy the “safest” claim. As others have said, the structure of the vehicle (crumple zones, body rigidity and so on) are at least as important. I am not sure how well the tiny i3 will fare against getting T-Boned by a mega-SUV. I’ll take my Model S any day.


Old fashioned driver induced stopping is far too slow. The difference in reaction time can make the difference between minor injuries and death.

In some of the safety features, the braking is applied to selective wheels in unstable driving states to correct the attitude of the car and prevent an accident. No human can interpret those situations or react to them fast enough even if they had access to control each wheel’s brakes independently, which they don’t


According to the 2014 Chevy Volt website, the Volt has a forward collision warning, no mention of any pedestrian alert or warning.
If you have another reference, I will be happy to update the table.



They are not the same.
The warning referenced in the manual is essentially a soft horn that must be manually operated by pushing a button –
“Momentarily push the P button on the end of the turn signal lever, and
a soft-note alert will momentarily sound. Repeat for additional activations of the pedestrian friendly alert.”

The Audible Pedestrian Warning System is an automated system that is activated automatically at low speeds.
From the Toyota RAV4 EV manual –
“A sound is produced while driving to warn pedestrians, people riding
bicycles or other people and vehicles in the surrounding area that
the vehicle is approaching. The pitch of the sound adjusts according
to vehicle speed. When vehicle speed is approximately 16 mph (25
km/h) or more, the warning system turns off.”

Thanks for the link to the Volt manual though!


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.


i3 rear park distance control aids the driver in avoiding a rear end collision, like it does on many of the other EVs. You are correct, at the speeds the system is useful, it is extremely unlikely there will potential for fatalities.


Originally I left “rear park distance control” off the list, but the other OEM websites were listing it as a safety feature for their cars so I added it back in.

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


I have been following EVs for many years now. I have done extensive research on every EV available in California as they become available. I was absolutely sold on the Tesla Model S from the day it was introduced and I spent several of the following years trying to figure out how I could afford it. With the i3, I have discovered a vehicle that provide very substantial value at its price point when one considers the totality of what it offers. As I have performed that analysis for myself, I am presenting it to others to share my conclusion for what I believe to be the most value for the dollar according to that analysis.

Mark H

We all have our favorite EV but try really hard to uplift the entire fleet. While one or two op-eds to really go crazy on your favorite is generally accepted, I think Dan and Rick are trying to say that 4 is getting into the supremacy tone a bit which already plagues the BMW brand to begin with.
Having said that, I think the i3 has many new features that are worth writing about. A little overpriced for my taste. IMO the Model S, Volt or LEAF are better values depending on which end of the spectrum fits your needs. The i3 will fall between them and will have a market of some level. I really look forward to driving one. As for the i3, I say welcome to the party! But if you keep explaining why it is superior they might call that aryan.


Mark H,
There is much opinion and conjecture based information on this and other sites based on personal preference or ownership. I am simply presenting fact based perspective for consideration.


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

As well as half of the other things too.

Al S

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


According to the Nissan Leaf website, it comes with
Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS)
Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)
Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)
Traction Control System (TCS)
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

No mention of “half the other things too”

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.

George B

Brilliant, thanks for the article, Darren!


Thanks George.

I haven’t seen any postings from you in a while, where have you been?


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!


Interesting you mention falling asleep at the wheel, there is technology in research for that.
Safety will continue to improve with technology. Perhaps the ultimate safe state will be when our cars drive us around without our input at all.


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!


Thanks Peder!


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…..




My mistake, I will see if Jay is open to correcting it.

Graphic is changed/updated. We always want to be as accurate as possible!


Thanks Staff!


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…………


You obviously did not live through it as I did. The automotive companies fought all of it tooth and nail, even going to court in some cases citing that the federal safety requirements imposed on them would put them out of business. Safety was not a selling feature in those days like it is now.

Were you around for the Ford Pinto debacle? The vehicle had a high propensity to burst into flames upon rear impact because the gas tank was right there. It was a hazard that was known by Ford but they weighted the cost of insurance claims against the cost of making the design change and opted to pay the lawsuits instead. People died in those fires.


Even today vehicle safety is driven by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) which prescribes the minimum level of safety provisions a vehicle must have to be sold in the USA, which is what most low to mid range vehicles offer. The features are included because they are required to be included.

More proactive companies like BMW, Audi, MBZ and others are including active features that are far beyond the FMVSS as features as value added propositions to their products.


I was surprised to see the correlation the release of Nader’s book as well. I am not claiming that he is or isn’t responsible for the improved safety record of automobiles, just pointing out the coincidence of history. Something to think about.


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.


According to the 2014 Chevy Volt website, the Volt has a forward collision warning, no mention of any pedestrian alert or warning.


The single biggest system failure in automotive accidents is the driver. The more we eliminate the driver from the equation, the safer we all get.


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.


I did not include airbags as they are post-crash features, the focus of the article is pre-crash systems. Anyway, all of the vehicles have airbags so it washes out of the discussion.

Thanks Stan_cz


The MiEV website has virtually no information, if you have a better source I will be happy to update the table.

Same for Spark EV



Spark EV user manual. Yes, the Spark is a gasoline car, the Spark EV is the relevant comparison.


Read up! Your selective facts need brushing up.


What is it that you have contention with on the Spark EV?


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


Not mentioned on the website

Do you have a RAV4EV? If so, I will update the table.

Thanks miimura


I have a RAV4 EV and it comes standard with a rear camera, it also has the Star Safety System™ which is a suite of six active safety features that include Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, 25 Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist 26 and Smart Stop Technology®.


Thank you for the information.

I am aware of the Star Safety System, all of the included features are represented in the table.

I will add the standard rear camera.

Thanks again.


The table is updated to reflect standard rear view camera.

Good catch, thanks for the feedback.

Robert Goldsmith

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 🙂


That is a valid recommendation. I will research the Zoe and see if IEVs will let me update the table. Do you have any recommendations for sites that list all of the Zoe’s safety features?


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.