BMW Unveils Production Ready i8 at Frankfurt

Frankfurt, Germany — At this morning’s Frankfurt Auto Show, we got our first true glimpse of a production ready version of the hugely anticipated 2015 BMW i8; a plug-in hybrid coupe that’s the high-performance, high-cost counterpart to the well received 2014 BMW i3 urban electric-car.

Among other details, BMW announced U.S. pricing for the car, which will go on sale next spring.

The BMW i8 will start at $135,925 including destination–or roughly three times the cost of the smaller i3 battery-electric car.

Both cars have strong but light bodies made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) riding on an aluminum rolling platform that holds the running gear, including battery packs, electric motors, and in the case of the i8, a rear-mounted 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine.

But the 2015 BMW i8 is the company’s first-ever plug-in hybrid. The company’s press release calls it a “revolutionary interpretation” of BMW’s tradition of driving pleasure, and for once, the word “revolutionary” may not be hyperbole.

BMW i8 hybrid frankfurt autoshow 2013

The car’s statistics are impressive: curb weight of just 3,285 pounds, a drag coefficient of 0.26, and a center of gravity less than 18 inches above the ground.

The powertrain is designed for performance; the turbocharged three-cylinder engine puts out 231 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, driving the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Then there’s a separate electric motor that powers the front wheels, rated at 96 kilowatts (131 hp) and 184 lb-ft of torque.

The BMW i8 can run up to 22 miles on electric power alone, at a top speed limited to 75 mph. Or the engine can power the rear wheels, or both front and rear wheels can be driven together for maximum performance–with the car’s vehicle control software modulating power between the two different sources.

That arrangement makes the BMW i8 what’s called a “through-the-road hybrid,” a formulation also used by the far more expensive and limited-edition Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid sports car.

Performance with all wheels driven is simply the sum of the two maximums: power output of 362 hp and torque of 420 lb-ft.

BMW i8 hybrid frankfurt autoshow 2013

The lithium-ion battery pack is mounted not in the floorpan, as in the i3 hatchback, but in the tunnel between the car’s two seats. BMW rates its usable capacity at 5 kilowatt-hours, and notes that the pack is liquid-cooled to minimize the effect of temperature extremes on its performance.

While BMW notes that the i8 is rated at a combined fuel consumption of 94 miles per gallon, we’ll wait to see how the EPA rates the car’s range and efficiency in electric mode, and its gas mileage when running on the engine.[scrollGallery id=30]