Wrecked BMW i3: 3 Day Test Drive Goes Awry


Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

An Oklahoma City resident and now an owner of a BMW i3 was involved in a car crash during the 3 Day Extended Drive program offered by dealerships.

The customer was driving with their child in the passenger rear seat when they were were hit broadside at about 45 mph without injuries. The i3 looks to have fared well and needed new doors and the right side carbon panel. There is also some front suspension damage.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG.  Check it out here.

The high voltage system deactivated as designed by the engineers when the pyrotechnic 12 volt battery separated upon impact.

According to the dealership, the customer was impressed with the safety of the BMW i3 and he ordered his very own i3.

The images below give us a closer look at the damages and also the repairs needed.

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Wrecked BMW i3

Category: BMW, Crashed EVs

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38 responses to "Wrecked BMW i3: 3 Day Test Drive Goes Awry"
  1. ClarksonCote says:

    I’m confused, how was an owner of a BMW i3 involved in a car crash if it was a 3-day test drive. Did they already have another i3?

    Bet the dealer isn’t too pleased… 🙂

    1. Victor says:

      According to the dealership, the customer was impressed with the safety of the BMW i3 and he ordered his very own i3.

      1. Mike says:

        Good Guy i3 Buyer: Wrecks One Buys One.

        I’m pretty impressed with that aluminum structure.
        Looks like you get what you pay for.

      2. ClarksonCote says:

        Ah, a Future owner. Got it.

  2. kdawg says:

    What’s the VIN #? Make sure to check the car facts before u buy 🙂

  3. Goaterguy says:

    The car fared well and its likely that it was insured. I bet the dealer and BMW will use this as a publicity stunt and they should.
    PD. I think you mean 12 volt battery not 12 bolt.
    Hopefully the guy was on a 3 day test drive and after the accident he is now an owner.

  4. Brian says:

    What does the repair bill look like for that? With the frame damage, is it even repairable, or is it a total loss?

    1. toumard says:

      The car is made up of attached carbon fiver reinforced plastic panels, so if one part breaks, they can take it out and replace it without sacrificing the entire frame.

      1. Brian says:

        From one of the pictures (the 5th from the top), it sure looks like the frame itself is damaged, and not just a body panel.

  5. AlanSqB says:

    My guess is that BMW is going to want this one back for inspection and the it’s probably headed for the crusher or slavage. If BMW is self insured on these test rides, it’s likely going to be cheaper for them.

    1. Brian says:

      I was told that I would need my own insurance to cover the car if I took one for an extended test drive.

    2. James M says:

      Crusher? The car can not be melted down for reuse. Carbon fiber is not economic to recycle. And there is no after market for used parts because only BMW understands how to fix this car. Hopefully they take it back for reuse, otherwise do write-offs become landfill?

      1. gsned57 says:

        Boeing Makes the V-22 Osprey which is a composite fuselage (Been making it for many years) and I can attest that we do have composite recycling bins. I’ve never followed the recycling truck but am pretty sure the pre and post processed composite does get recycled.

        1. Joshua Burstyn says:

          Carbon fibre is downcycled to my knowledge. True recycling of composites appears to be very difficult.

          1. DaveMart says:

            The roof and the shell of the rear seats of the i3 are themselves from recycled materials:

            They achieve 95% recycling of the i3:

            1. RussB says:

              Can we quit with the talk about recycling of carbon fiber already? It just doesn’t happen in any meaningful way.
              First of all, using the scrap that is left over from trimming the fabric is not recycling. And even if it was, using short-strand CF (“non-oriented”) in an application like this is just making really expensive and energy-intensive fiberglass. In this configuration, CF does not give a significant performance advantage over glass fiber, so there is no significant advantage of using it.
              Second, no one is recycling 95% of the i3, nor will they at any time in the near future. The ELV requires that 95% of the vehicle be recyclable, not recycled. While it is theoretically possible to recycle CFRP (therefore eligible for credit under ELV), it is wildly expensive and environmentally heinous, and no one in the world is doing it on anything like an industrial scale. So the CFRP from every one of these that gets bought will end up in a landfill, and all of the extra energy that went into making the CFRP will be wasted.

              This is not a green car, this is a marketing exercise.

  6. Mark C says:

    I t-boned a Corolla several years back at 40 mph and it looked FAR worse than that. I could see buying a car that could take a beating as well as that.

    I’m glad the pictures were posted. It goes a long way toward answering the questions of how a CFRP body will stand up in the real world. In the final analysis, I don’t really care how the car looks after the wreck, I care about how the passengers fared. IMHO, if the car is totally destroyed, but saved it’s most precious cargo, it did its job admirably.

  7. eschase says:

    This occurred at Jackie Cooper BMW in Edmond, OK. I recently bought an i3 Rex from them and was shown this car. What happened was that they were given the car for a 3 day test and they were T-Boned while out driving. They were so impressed with how the car did that they bought one. When we were shown the car, we were very Impressed. There was no intrusion into the cabin. On the inside the only way you could tell that it had been in an accident was that the side curtain airbag had been deployed.

  8. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

    I still don’t like BMW’s idiot placement of the charge port. No idea why it’s on the wrong corner of the car at all.

    1. David Murray says:

      Agreed – When I did the 3 day test drive I had to back the car into my garage to use my 240V aerovironment charger because it wouldn’t reach otherwise.

    2. mustang_sallad says:

      I dunno – front-left charge ports piss me off every time I plug into a curb-side charge station, especially those with cord management.

      1. Foo says:

        I never seen, let alone used, a curbside station. Are these common?

        1. regional says:

          In Europe they are… There’s some in downtown LA.

    3. alohart says:

      It’s on the same corner as my former Mitsubishi i-MiEV for which I had a charging outlet installed in my apartment parking space, so the charge port location on my i3 is ideal. There is no ideal location for all cars in all parking situations.

      1. The front center cover most situations very well.

        Nissan LEAF uses this.

  9. sven says:

    “. . . were hit broadside at about 45 mph without injuries. The i3 looks to have fared well and needed new doors and the right side carbon panel.”

    I thought that the i3’s body panels are injection molded thermoplastic and only the passenger cell frame was CFRP. Also, I doubt that this was a 45 MPH impact. The door beams show hardly any deformity. It looks like a much slower speed impact and the door panels popped off. I’d be interested in finding out how much it cost to repair the i3. It doesn’t look like the CFRP frame was damaged and needed to be cut out and replaced.

    I’m glad nobody was hurt in the accident.

    1. Bloggin says:

      True. Cleary the impact was not at 45mph.

      It looks more like a driver cutting a left turn to wide and side/swiped the i3 door panel with it’s front bumper.

      What would be interesting is an ‘accurate’ account of the repair costs for those carbon fiber parts.

    2. Alonso Perez says:

      Totally agree. There is absolutely no way this was a 45 MPH side impact. Most likely the car was traveling at 45MPH when it was hit from the side at a much lower speed.

      People simply do not comprehend the energy involved in a 45 MPH impact. It’s basically fatal for side impacts on the side that’s hit, for any car, even a Model S.

      What happens is, people drive along at 45 MPH (indicated, so probably more like 42), then hit the brakes hard, then impact. By the moment of impact they might be doing 30 or less, so it is less than half the energy.

    3. blah says:

      You’re all jumping to conclusions without understanding the material properties.

      The damage from the i3 will look significantly different than a metal alloy vehicle. You can also clearly see from the pictures and the deformation of the thermoplastic and door frame that the impact point was very low, about half on the CFRP frame and half on the alloy.

      CFRP has significantly higher stiffness and bending yield strength, but lower fracture toughness than metal alloys. What that means is you’re not going to see a twisted, bent up part. You’re going to see a hole or a crack. Being stiffer also means it will transmit the loads much more efficiently.

      So, yes, if the impact was above the CFRP and only contacted the door’s alloy then you would probably see what you were expecting. But you can’t simply claim “it’s not at 45 mph” because the car isn’t a total wreck. Even I will concede that my assessment is just speculation. But I’m not claiming to be more right than you guys. What I am saying is that you can make bold statements like that without understanding the big picture.

      1. RussB says:

        You can certainly tell this was not a 45mph side impact by looking at the pictures.
        What kind of vehicle could possibly have hit it broadside and only contacted the rocker panel?
        Other than the front passenger door, none of the glass is even cracked!
        While you are right about the deformation characteristics of CFRP vs metals, there is just no way that the small amount of damage shown represents the absorption of all of the energy from a 45 mph impact. If the CFRP was so strong that the huge amount of energy involved caused only that small amount of damage, the energy pulse transmitted to the passengers would have been fatal.

        CFRP is incredible (though environmentally not so great) stuff, but it is not magic.

  10. DonC says:

    Very good news that no one was hurt. So far all the electrics are faring super well in crashes. Added mass plus added support for the battery is performing.

    Hate to see the bill for the repair. That will be an issue, not so much for this accident which was serious, but for those little fender benders. Nothing ruins your day like someone running into your back end on the freeway, doing $10K worth of damage. Makes sense to go with a high deductible for these babies.

  11. MDEV says:

    I guess his insurance has to pay for it.

  12. Alonso Perez says:

    Even though I am quite certain this was not an actual 45 MPH impact, or even near that speed, I have to say that the structure does look impressive in design and construction. It is probably at least as safe as the safest car in its weight class.

  13. Ozz says:

    I’m shocked (No pun intended) that you guys didn’t mention that the person at fault would be the one paying for the Repair. The guy who t-boned the i3 is probably going to shit bricks when he sees the Insurance Pau out amount for the damage. Lol

    1. sven says:

      How do you know that the other driver is at fault? The i3 driver could have blown through a stop sign, run a red light, or quickly backed out of a driveway and did not see the oncoming traffic.

  14. Kosh says:

    Meanwhile, the dealership now has a big sign that says


  15. Phr3d says:

    Come test wreck the new i3 on our exclusive 3-day test drive and see that You’ll want one Too!!!

  16. benoit67 says:

    hello i don’t understand why the bmw i3 sales are so low in europe.the e v best sellers in europe are the nisssan leaf and the renault zoe.