Volkswagen has made headlines in China following an incident on Monday in which a VW electric vehicle crashed into a motorway toll station and caught fire in Hangzhou, resulting in the death of four people, according to a report in financial media outlet Caixin.

Why it matters: Video clips that show firefighters working near the burning car have drawn social media attention, with comments voicing concerns about EV safety that may cast a shadow over VW vehicles sold in China.

Details: A passenger vehicle hit a barrier at a Hangzhou toll station in the eastern Chinese city early on Monday, catching fire immediately, and killing the four men in the vehicle, the city’s traffic police confirmed in a post on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

  • The local authorities did not provide further details about the incident or specify a cause of the blast. Several video clips have gone viral on the Chinese internet showing a VW-branded battery-powered EV at the center of the fatal crash.
  • SAIC-Volkswagen, a joint venture between the German automaker and SAIC Motor, is cooperating with investigations, Caixin reported, citing someone close to the company. The firm did not respond to TechNode’s request for comment.

Context: China requires EV battery systems to be designed so as not to catch fire or explode for at least 30 minutes after a crash at 50 kilometers per hour (31mph) or under, an expert from the China Automotive Engineering Research Institute Co., Ltd told Caixin.

  • Sales of VW’s battery-powered EVs in China dropped 25.4% year-on-year to around 21,500 units for the first three months of this year, as the German auto major faced growing pressure from Tesla and a slew of Chinese firms led by BYD.
  • VW currently sells three models under its purely electric ID. series in China, namely the ID.4 crossover, the ID.3 hatchback, and the seven-seater ID.6, covering the mainstream luxury car segment with a price range of between RMB 150,000 and RMB 350,000 ($21,045-$49106).

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: or Twitter: @yushan_shen