Reader Question: BMW Fire Risk?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Laurie asks: I recently heard, from the carpenter doing the home rebuild, that a 1999 BMW spontaneously combusted in the garage and that as a matter of fact BMWs are to some degree known for this . . . based on the litigating lawyer’s commentary about how BMW denies this. . . IT apparently starts in the battery near where the trunk and back seat intersect.  Do you know of any of this? Love your blog, tho I’m certainly not a car nerd . . . Write on!

My reply: As Teslians often point out, non-electric cars sometimes also catch fire. This is almost inevitable given the necessary ingredients for a fire (ignition source, fuel, air) are always present. But the qualifier – which the Teslians never mention – is that electric cars catch fire much more often in proportion to their numbers. For example, the number of Pintos that caught fire in relation to the millions of them that were made is very small relative to the small number of Teslas that have been made and the number of them that have gone up in smoke.

Also, EV fires are hotter and fiercer and unlike a gas fire, come back on fire after they’ve been “put out.”

As regards your question: Late model BMWs use a generator/alternator system that’s kind of like a mild-hybrid set-up; the idea being to (sigh) increase efficiency (minimally) at the price of much greater complexity and, of course, cost. These systems may be more prone to fire than a conventional system with a standard 12 volt battery that starts the car and and an alternator that powers the accessories (and recharges the battery) while the engine is running.

But I’ve not come across any info to indicate that BMWs have a significantly greater propensity to catch fire than other makes/models.

Excluding EVs, of course!

. . .

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1 COMMENT

  1. Since the vehicle in question is a 1999, I suspect the mild hybrid system is not in play in any of the putative fires postulated. I suspect there may be something to the fire risk maybe, since some BMW’s of that vintage placed the battery under the rear seat, like the old VW Beetle did. Any damage to wiring, and you’ve got an arc welder level of energy available to feed a short. Possible. I have no data to back the hypothesis up, however.

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