BMW’s i8: Plug-In Hybrid Performance Comes of Age

BMW's Innovative & Sporty i8 Concept Breaks New Ground fo the Plug-In Hybrids

The first official details of the BMW i8 Concept have been revealed along with images of the car that seemingly show it in its near-production form. The i8 Concept was revealed alongside the smaller i3 Concept; a preview of BMW’s first mass-produced all-electric city car. Both vehicles will officially make their international debuts at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

The i8 Concept retains much of the innovation seen with the BMW Vision Efficient-Dynamics concept; first previewed at the Frankfurt futuristic sports car design expo in 2009 and again at the 2011 Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne last month. Unlike the Vision concept however, which utilized a diesel engine, the i8 Concept is powered by a gasoline engine and an accompanying electric motor. The 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged gas engine produces an astonishing 220hp of power and 221lb/ft of torque. To give that some perspective, the current BMW 125i is powered by a 3.0-litre inline-six with 215hp and 199lb/ft of torque; double the capacity, double the cylinders, 5hp less power and 22lb/ft less torque…magic even Harry Potter would be proud of.

Assisting the gas engine is 129hp/184lb/ft electric motor, which draws power from a lithium-ion battery. With a combined maximum power output of 350hp and 406lb/ft, the i8 Concept is capable of accelerating from 0-60mph in just under 4.6 seconds and will go on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.

Perhaps most intriguingly the production i8 will also feature the ability to be driven in fully electric zero-emissions mode for up to 22miles, more than sufficient for most urban commutes. A full recharge of the battery from a standard power socket is said to takes approximately 105 minutes.

With the gasoline engine positioned over the rear axle and the electric motor over the front for a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, the BMW i8 Concept can become a silent front-drive electric, a rear-drive highway cruiser or an all-wheel drive performance machine, all dependent on demand or driver prerogative.

The exterior features BMW’s new i design language, which incorporates carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in white, high-gloss black and stream blue – with an extensive greenhouse. Aerodynamics was the major influence on the overall construction, which is optimized to cut through the air as efficiently as possible. The overlapping, layered surfaces contribute to this, and give the i8 Concept a dynamic, three-dimensional appearance.

This flowing design continues inside the cabin where the central screen and console are directed towards the driver, and a smaller instrument panel screen sits behind the steering wheel to provide maximum information and clarity. The surfaces are a combination of leather, metals and high-gloss piano black plastics.

The intuitive flowing design of the i8's interior mimics it's aerodynamic exterior.

The i8 and i3 concepts also introduce Last Mile Navigation and Intermodal Route Planning. The former sends navigation information to your smartphone to help you locate your final destination on foot, while the latter analyses public transport options to project complete itinerary for your journey even beyond the car. Intuitive, this advanced navigation system also calculates the best way to manage energy consumption for the trip to ensure that it operates at peak performance and optimal efficiency when required.

A production version of the BMW i8 Concept is expected to go on sale in in 2014 with a predicted price tag of between $250,000 and $300,000.

The BMW i8 Concept Gallery

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