China got an electric BMW 3 Series before the rest of the world with the new i3 saloon, as the Bavarian automaker is trying to steal some sales away from the extremely popular Tesla Model 3. But during a recent test drive in Zhengzhou, China, the i3 caught fire forcing its occupants to quickly exit the vehicle.
Small flames could be seen under the car, and even though at one point in the video posted by CnEVPost they do seem to get bigger, they never engulf the vehicle and the fire looks like it stays contained to the same area. We’re pretty sure that is not a battery pack fire, especially given that it’s located towards the rear of the vehicle where the traction motor is.
Perhaps this is why it didn’t suddenly burst into flames surrounding the entire vehicle from underneath, like we’ve seen in so many EV battery pack fires. These usually result in the complete destruction of the vehicle, but in this case the i3 saloon probably lived to drive another day with some repairs, although the incident will surely be investigated by both BMW and authorities.
According to the source article, the China-only i3 began reaching customers last month when 1,613 units were reportedly delivered. Apparently, the vehicle isn’t as appealing to customers as BMW had thought, and it’s nowhere near as popular as the Model 3 which is still seen as the best deal in the segment.
The BMW i3 saloon is only sold with a single-motor eDrive35L model that makes 282 bhp and 400 Nm (295 pound-feet) of torque. It draws from a 70.3 kWh battery pack with a net capacity of 66.1 kWh and in China it has a claimed range 526 km (327 miles), although the figure would be closer to 400 km (250 miles) if calculated on the European WLTP test cycle, and even less as per the EPA.