The North American unit of German premium carmaker BMW is recalling around 19,000 units of its BMW i3 electric vehicle because of the risk of fuel leak. You may ask, “An electric vehicle having a fuel leak?” Yes, EVs aren’t supposed to suffer from a fuel leak, simply because they get their energy from a battery pack, not from gasoline or petrol. That would be the case for a typical EV.
However, a fuel leak may occur in the case of EVs with a complementary internal combustion engine that serves its purpose to extend the distance the unit could travel. Simply put, once the battery pack runs out of energy, the gasoline engine kicks in as the EV seamlessly shifts from electric power to fossil fuel, thereby serving as a range extender.
While the BMW i3 is a pure electric vehicle, there are customers who want to travel farther distances than its battery power could provide. Thus, the German premium carmaker is also offering a version of the BMW i3 that is fitted with a small range-extending gasoline engine. This version – the BMW i3 Rex – has been recently found to be at risk of a fuel vapor line, mainly due to the positioning of the fuel tank vent line and the ribbed wire protection sleeve for the battery pack.
Affected models are all BMW i3 REx plug-in hybrid EVs (with range-extender engine) from model years 2014 to 2017. This covers BMW i3 REx units built from March 2014 to the present. According to the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the fuel tank vent line of this version of the BMW i3 may rub against the ribbed wire protection sleeve of the battery positive (B+) cable, possibly resulting to a hole in the vent line and causing a fuel vapor leak. This fuel vapor leak poses a fire risk. According to BMW, no actual fires have so far been reported related to this particular issue.
Around 19,130 units of the BMW i3 REx are affected in the US. BMW will commence contacting affected owners of the BMW i3 REx to inform them of the issue and urge them to bring in their units for an inspection of the fuel vent line on April 3, 2017. BMW will replace the fuel vent line, if necessary without charging its owners for the replacement and service.
Interestingly, the disclosure that 19,130 BMW i3 REx units are being recalled due to possible fuel vapor leak gives us a solid hint on how many pure electric BMW i3 EVs (without any range extenders) have been sold in the US so far. BMW reportedly has sold 25,123 units of the i3 in the US so far, which means the German carmaker only sold slightly uner 6,000 units of the pure electric i3 during the period. This means, three of four BMW i3 customers have so far chosen the version with the range extender.