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Photo and video overview: BMW's techno-flagship i8

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May 27, 2014

The BMW i8 - a high-performance, high-efficiency stepping stone between the oil age and th...

The BMW i8 - a high-performance, high-efficiency stepping stone between the oil age and the electric era

Image Gallery (83 images)

BMW's "sportscar of the future" is about to begin customer deliveries. The i8 is a plug-in hybrid with a short fully electric range, 112 miles per gallon hybrid efficiency and a very feisty, 357 horsepower, all wheel drive sports mode that fires it to 60 mph in four and a half seconds. It's a very clever piece of engineering and a beautiful piece of futurist auto art – a stepping stone between the oil age and the electric future. Take a closer look in our huge photo gallery and video overview.

According to MyTravelCost, Saudis can still buy petrol for less than 80 US cents per gallon. Americans likewise enjoy some of the cheapest in the Western world at US$3.62 per liter. Step into Europe and you can more or less instantly double that figure, and it’s well on the way to triple that in Germany and Norway.

So, however much Americans might be feeling the effects of rising gas prices, Europeans have been hit harder and for longer. And since the upward trend is unlikely to reverse itself, Americans can look to the European auto industry as a herald of what’s on the way.

And what’s on the way is not necessarily bleak. While efficiency is a big deal, and fuel consumption figures can sell cars, that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of fun to be had on the road.

The BMW i8 - a stepping stone between the oil age and the electric era

Take the i8, BMW’s new technology flagship, which is very close to making its first customer deliveries. This is a 112 miles per gallon sportscar with genuine 4.5-second 0-60 mph times.

How it gets there is fascinating – a carbon fiber body shell keeps the total weight down to 3285 lbs (1490 kg), using a manufacturing process which BMW claims will allow it to make CF as strong and light as its competitors, but for less money.

Under the hood, a watermelon-sized electric motor drives the two front wheels to the tune of 131 horsepower, sucking electricity from a modest 7.1 kWh battery pack that runs down the middle of the car. On battery power alone, you can travel about 23 miles (37km) on a charge – enough for a short commute, or to enable you to pootle around town and spend virtually nothing on fuel. (Mind you, can you really be pootling on fully electric drive? Perhaps the language is going to have to change with the times.)

The BMW i8's forward-mounted electric motor and elongated battery pack

Of course, this is a sports car, so that’s not all she wrote. At the rear of the car is a turbocharged 1.5 liter, three cylinder engine, based on the one in the Mini Cooper. Unlike in the Cooper, it produces 231 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful engines around per cubic centimeter of displacement.

To the rear of the i8, you'll find a 3-cylinder turbo petrol engine and fuel tank

When you’re in sports mode, this teams up with the electric motor to give you a very healthy 357 horsepower to play with – and there’s another small electric motor at the back which functions as the starter motor, but also directs its full 35 horsepower to the rear wheels when the combustion engine is at low revs, to seamlessly smooth out turbo lag. Clever stuff!

Around town, the petrol motor also kicks in to extend the range of the car when you’re running the battery low – so you spend the first 15-odd miles driving on (more or less) free electricity, but then you’ve got a highly efficient engine to fall back on if you need to go further.

The BMW i8 - steering wheel and dash

Electric efficiency, petrol’s range and convenience, plus the performance of a genuine sportscar. Oh, and it’s got laser headlights and scissor doors.

The BMW i8 - dash showing powertrain in action

BMW claims the i8 is the car of the future – but in reality I think it’s the cutting edge car of today. We’re living in a strange transitional age where fully electric vehicles promise insane performance, usable range and convenient charging times, but battery technology isn’t quite there yet. The i8 hybrid is an astonishing technical achievement and an extremely cool car; it straddles the gap between the gasoline age and the electric future with a sense of real fun and excitement. It integrates its technologies in a way that is both visible and seamless to the driver.

But at the end of the day, it’s a very clever solution to a problem that simply shouldn’t exist in 10 or 20 years.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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9 Comments

That's definitely a lot of technology. I wonder how much complexity is involved in just having the 3rd motor (the 35 HP on) be able to partially power the car to smooth out turbo lag.

I am a huge fan of plug-in hybrid though, it's simply the best solution available for 2014. Most driving people do is over short distances and that's electric alone. Over the long trips you can plug in when you stop or use gasoline when you don't have the time. There is no need to own 2 cars with plug in hybrid and its a really good compromise.

As Porsche has shown with their 918 Spyder plug in there is a LOT of potential for performance with them as well.

Daishi
27th May, 2014 @ 04:01 am PDT

"As Porsche has shown with their 918 Spyder plug in there is a LOT of potential for performance with them as well"

The McLaren P1 and the LaFerrari are no slouch either...

Keith Reeder
27th May, 2014 @ 09:24 am PDT

@Keith Porsche 918 has a nurburgring lap time of 6:57, the McLaren P1 is 6:47 LaFerrari hasn't posted an official time yet but the LaFerrari XX (track) version posted a 6:35.

All of those numbers are basically unlike anything before now. Even cars like Ferrari Enzo, Pagani Zonda, and Porsche Carrera GT are north of 7:24

Now that cars like Nissan GT-R, Corvette Z06, and even the Camaro Z/28 are posting lap times in the mid 7s hybrid might be the new requirement for supercars.

Daishi
27th May, 2014 @ 04:30 pm PDT

I've been waiting 30 years for an EV. At 71, I don't have the time to wait much longer so I've decided to buy the compromise hybrid if they just get a little better. At 15 miles the ICE kicks in. Not even close. I don't ask for much. I want to run all electric for local use, meaning a range of 50 miles.

Ten years ago I said I wouldn't pay over $35K. I've upped my limit to $50K.

Are you listening Tesla?

Don Duncan
28th May, 2014 @ 12:15 pm PDT

@Don. I don't know that much about the Chevy Volt may be close to your requirement. Depending on which estimate you go by in EV only mode its close to 40 miles and with a tank of gas the total range is 379 miles. They are ~26k.

Daishi
28th May, 2014 @ 02:25 pm PDT

hybrids, a dying breed. look at all the junk around that engine, carb, exhaust, intake, just to name three. give me a tesla, fast, efficient and clean from all of that clutter.

i will be glad when total electric finally comes into it's own....

billybob1851
28th May, 2014 @ 02:27 pm PDT

Produce some for the Rental market alone & for sales.

Id drive one, awesome.

Stephen N Russell
28th May, 2014 @ 03:31 pm PDT

At his time (May 26, 2014) USA gasoline (regular) is about $4.00 per gallon, as there are 3.8 liters to a a US gallon, that works out to

$1.05 per liter.

The price you quoted is closer to the UK/european price.

macnosy
28th May, 2014 @ 04:12 pm PDT

looks to be an exciting future sports car. I can't wait for them to get cheaper and for the aftermarket to get ahold of them. It will be interesting seeing larger motors with more copper and/or tighter winds to get more power. Bring on the non-boring hybrids!

Michael Wilson
2nd June, 2014 @ 04:29 pm PDT
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