BMW recalls 83 EVs for risk of fire, Cruise has an astronomical burn rate, Mercedes prices the new SL. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
BMW Tells A Few Owners To Stop Driving Their EVs
The next few weeks are going to really suck for roughly seven dozen BMW owners. While a recall with a scope of 83 cars seems fairly small in the grand scheme of things, an order not to drive the affected vehicles could really play havoc on people’s plans. Yes, BMW is advising 56 iX electric crossover SUV owners and 27 i4 electric sedan owners to park their vehicles immediately due to possibly having improperly-manufactured battery packs. If this is giving you shades of Chevrolet Bolt, you’re not wrong.
See, while BMW engineered battery packs for its i4 and iX in-house, production is still handled by outside suppliers. This means quality control is largely in the hands of Samsung SDI, and they didn’t quite nail a batch of packs. Let’s take a look at what the NHTSA recall report has to say.
A review of the battery supplier production records for the vehicle from the April incident was performed. Analyses suggested an irregularity during the supplier’s production process which may have allowed debris to enter into a battery cell. Further analyses were able to identify cathode pieces within the battery cell.
On June 3, 2022, BMW became aware of a US field incident involving a Model Year 2022 iX xDrive50, and on June 19, 2022, BMW became aware of a non-US field incident involving a 2022 BMW iX M60. Similar analyses were performed, and similar findings were identified involving an irregularity during the supplier’s production process.
So what exactly can broken-off cathode pieces within a battery cell cause? How about a chance of fiery death? Yeah, such debris can short a cell and start a thermal event — not exactly ideal stuff. [Editor’s Note: I used to work as a thermal protection engineer, and I recall that the term “fire” was pretty much unacceptable. “Thermal event” was the go-to term. -DT]. As such, owners and dealerships have been given simple instructions: do not drive or charge the affected vehicles, and don’t park them near buildings either. The recall fix consists of whole battery pack replacement and should kick off in late September. Until then, best of luck with keeping these vehicles from self-immolating.
Speaking of BMW EVs
How’s this for awkward timing? If you want a BMW EV that almost certainly has a lower chance of self-immolation, might I suggest the new i4 eDrive35. It’s a bit of a mouthful and certainly a bit ugly, but it carries a number that somewhat mitigates those concerns. Including a $995 freight charge, this thing starts at $52,395. That’s honestly not bad for an electric liftback, so how did BMW kneecap the i4 to get the price down to such a level?
Well, we’re not looking at crazy range or power here, although it still sounds plenty quick and distance-ready for most. A battery pack with a net capacity of 66 kWh feeds an electric motor on the rear axle to move the i4 from a dead stop to 60 mph in an estimated 5.8 seconds. Power should clock in at around 281 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, while range is estimated to be around 260 miles on the base wheels.
While this doesn’t feel like brilliant timing to announce this new i4 variant, pricing and performance seem quite reasonable. Expect the i4 eDrive35 to roll into showrooms in the first quarter of 2023. If you want a mid-price electric sedan that isn’t a Tesla Model 3, this is pretty much it until the Hyundai Ioniq 6 arrives.
Cruise Apparently Burns Through $5 Million Every Single Day
Building autonomous cars is hard enough, but making autonomous cars profitable seems even harder in the short-term. Automotive News reports that losses are piling up for GM’s Cruise autonomous vehicle division, and the burn rate is almost unbelievable.
GM said last week that it lost $500 million on Cruise in the second quarter as it began charging for rides in a limited area of San Francisco. That’s more than $5 million a day, or the price of a Chevrolet Tahoe every 15 minutes.
Cruise’s losses for the first six months of the year deepened to $900 million from $600 million during the same period in 2021. Higher compensation costs to keep staff on board after putting aside plans for a public stock offering were one factor, GM executives said.
While fares from Cruise’s autonomous taxi program likely put a small dent in the losses, Cruise will have to greatly expand its territory and scope of operations to see a truly meaningful recoup through fares. This could be an uphill battle depending on how seriously regulators take issues like clustering and an alleged safety-second culture, so we’ll be watching this situation quickly to see how it plays out.
New Mercedes SL Gets U.S. Pricing
With the arrival of a new Mercedes SL, it almost feels like the balance of the European GT segment is slowly being restored. The SL is one of the longest-running nameplates in the automotive world, with a grand history of largely open-topped opulence with a few cases of fixed-roof nutbaggery. The SL65 Black Series comes to mind.
The new SL comes with AMG’s four-liter biturbo V8 in two states of tune. The SL55 pumps out 469 horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. of torque, while the SL63 ups the ante to 577 horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque. Stout numbers, as they really should be once you see the eye-watering price tags of both models. Including a $1,050 freight charge, the SL55 stickers for $138,450, while the SL63 clocks in at $179,150. That’s a $40,700 jump to the fast one, rather expensive considering the meager boost in quoted straight-line performance.
See, both SL models get all-wheel-drive to put power down efficiently, so the SL55 has a quoted 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds while the SL63 has a quoted 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds. If Mercedes’ testing is correct, that works out to around $13,566.67 per tenth of a second. So if the straight-line advantage is fairly mild, does the SL63 pack more handling hardware than the SL55? Well, yes and no. While the SL63 comes standard with a limited-slip rear differential and hydraulic roll stabilization, both of those features are available on the SL55. Also, do you happen to remember the AMG GT? The two-seat sports car that redefined phallic design for the modern age? It happened to be thousands of dollars less than a base SL, starting at $119,650.
I guess to sum it all up, I’m a little bit skeptical of the value of the new SL. It just seems a bit expensive in an era where consumers are generally shying away from cabriolets. I’m sure more information will arrive over the coming months to make the SL63 seem to pack better value, but until then I’m a bit cautious.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Welcome to August! Believe it or not, today is a statutory holiday in Canada, one most commonly referred to as Civic Holiday. Unfortunately, it’s not about ripping VTEC, but we’re here to change that. Let’s pretend that the K20A from a JDM eighth-generation Honda Civic Type R showed up unexpectedly on your doorstep with a note to have fun with it. What build would you plan around this free engine?
Lead photo credit: BMW
Ray Wert works fro Cruise. Autopian recently hired another Jalopnik EIC, so why not another? 😛
Could you squeeze that Civic engine into an X1/9, I wonder? Or a Fiero? It feels like it wants to be in the middle of a car powering the rear wheels.
Cruise will make back their losses very quickly when the autotomize trucks and send every trucker in America to the poor house.
Don’t worry, 99% of drivers driving today will quit or die before that becomes a reality. Automation replacing drivers won’t outpace natural attrition for the occupation.
Bowling pin setter, Phrenologist, and lamplighter used to be jobs too, but human progress made them obsolete. The only thing that’s constant is change.
We had a lot fewer bowling pin setters than we do commercial truck drivers…
Just gotta stick around long enough for the next cycle of bailouts…
Well, at least the Heated Battery Option isn’t a subscription-only feature on BMWs.
“Believe it or not, today is a statutory holiday in Canada…”
Shouldn’t it be on the 18th?
Thanks for the laugh
I have two answers to that – the practical and the heretical. Practically, I have a first-gen Nissan Quest minivan that I got to give my daughter whenever she gets her driver’s license, and while I’m waiting on that, why not K-swap it for more fun? Heretically, let’s say I get a Factory Five or Superformance Cobra/Daytona Coupe kit and drop that K motor in there with something like an S2000 transmission behind it.
It looks like a K20A retails for about $10,500
That’s about the same as an LS3; if someone dropped off a free one, I’d be looking to swap instead for a modern engine for my K5.
BMW = Barbecue Motor Works?
K20A build, hmm? That’s a tricky one, because for all the lunatic fanboys out there, the fact is that Honda engines flat out lack grunt. This is not opinion, this is a statement of fact. The K20A in 272HP trim makes only 152ft/lbs of torque; the GM LTG in 272HP trim has to be limited to 295ft/lbs.
So anything that weighs more than 3k lbs is right the hell out. Torque is what gets you going, and the K20A’s gutless in that department, end of discussion. So I’m gonna go find something like a Rush SR or Radical SR1 with a blown motor. Because you build B18C’s, you don’t swap them.
Heck of an upgrade in an old Miata though, and the aftermarket support to make them more powerful is practically endless.
When I worked on a 12,000 ton chemical gas tanker, a breakdown of the refrigeration could lead to exothermic chemical reactions in some gases, which caused more heating, which quickened the reaction, which caused more heating …
This was called a “thermal avalanche”.
I know the USCSB’s YouTube has some incident investigation videos about that. I think only one could not be entirely blamed on the company not implementing or following safety procedures.
Free motor for my lawn mower? Or add a fart can to attract bees? 🙂
I like those DF Goblin kit cars. Something like that might be fun with that engine. I can’t be bothered to post a link so you’ll have to Google it yourself.
I would like to put the K20A into a Saab Sonett.
Or I would put it into a custom tube chassis and build my own fiberglass-bodied version of an Ariel Atom, which would probably be easier than conversion.
Both are sort of unrealistic with my current schedule and garage limitations, so in reality I would put the K20A into a late model Honda Civic.
Agree on the SL. Too rich. And it doesn’t even have a hard top convertible anymore, which is why I used to argue that it might be worth it. Now, it’s not really even that special. If you want personal luxury in a performance convertible, the Audi R8 convertible has WAY more personality and performance.
Bad call Mercedes Benz. Should have kept the hard top.
I’d throw that free K20A in this already bastardized e30:
The SL I’m most excited for is the one we haven’t gotten (yet?) – the SL43. It’s actually somewhat attainable and at least *kind of* lives up to the Sport-Leicht moniker.
There was a company awhile back which would lengthen the front end of an original Mini 4” and drop a Honda motor in it. That sounds like stupid fun!
Could you put the K20 in that Dasher from this morning? I don’t know what the point would be, but that’s my answer.
Also, I know this is just yelling at clouds to get off my lawn, and all car prices are insane these days, but seeing a six figure pricetag just makes my eyes glaze over. And for…that? I guess I’ll go back to daydreaming about NSUs that weren’t.
If I had a K20A suddenly going spare in my garage, obviously I’d drop it in the NA Miata that is already in said garage. It’s a common and well-supported swap, and if I were going to do an engine swap in the real world it’s probably what I would do.
Regarding the fires, I’ve always wanted to see figures on per-mile and per-car burn rates (pun intended) relative to ICE cars, adjusted for average age of vehicle since most EVs on the road are pretty new. Obviously any fires are unacceptable, and fires related to manufacturing defects (batteries or otherwise) are particularly unacceptable, but I feel like it’s hard to know how much of the publicity around EV fires is due to them being especially fire-prone, and how much is due to them being EVs. The relevant statistics could help answer that question, but I haven’t ever seen them.
“Thermal event” is an industry term in solar, too. It’s not so much that we don’t want to say “fire” though as that the kinds of things that cause fires also cause all sorts of other, well, thermal events—discolored modules, damaged insulation, excessive resistance, etc. Just because something doesn’t actually catch fire doesn’t mean there wasn’t something seriously wrong, so we don’t want to leave those lesser thermal events out of the picture.
If Cruise could only figure out how to stop their cars from gathering up and hanging out at the water cooler all day slacking off…
Ain’t a holiday here in Quebec.
I’d love to cram a K20A into something like a Caterham 7. Would it fit? IDK. Would love to find out though.
It fits, and has been done.