The Germans were late to the club, but they are racing towards the lead with new innovations in EV and Hybrid vehicles. BMW is taking a different tact from the likes of the boring Toyota Camry Hybrid: they’re creating a gas-electric hybrid that’s out to redefine the sports car, combining massive MPGs with Porsche performance.
The BMW i8 starts with an aluminum Drive module, which houses the engine, two electric motors, the battery, the electronics and chassis bits in a single safety cell. The engine is a mid-mounted and turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder, a half-size version of BMW’s next generation in-line six, which is also destined for a place in the next Mini Cooper, and puts out 231 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. But wait, that's not all. An electric motor is mounted up front, sending power to the front wheels. That motor has a maximum of 131 hp and 184 lb-ft available the moment you mash down on the throttle. The electric motor can warp the i8 to 75 mph for up to 22 miles on battery alone. The battery pack on the i8 is relatively small at 7.2 kWh, and takes three hours to charge off of a 110-volt outlet.
|All photos/images courtesy of BMW|
Both engines combined give you 362 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque in all wheel drive sport mode. The front-mounted electric motor is able to control the wheel speed on-demand for maximum traction, and a zero to 60 mph of 4.5 seconds. Unfortunately, you are electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph.
BWM had to work hard to keep the weight down, in the right places, in order to achieve those numbers. Carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) reduces the passenger compartment’s weight by 50 percent over steel or 30 percent over aluminum, yet provides the same level of protection.
The doors save another 50 percent in weight by using an inner structure comprised of CFRP coated in an aluminum skin. Ducts are made of a plastic foam, some wiring made from aluminium, and the frame of the instrument panel from magnesium. The icing on this this cake is the rear window which is made from the same chemically hardened glass as on your smartphone (Gorilla Glass). The glass is stronger, and lighter that normal glass, while also helping to reduce cabin noise. We can guess that BMW will utilize active noise cancellation in the cabin.
This attention to detail keeps the i8 at 3300 lbs, only about 200 pounds heavier that a Porsche 911.
For those of you fortunate enough to live in Europe, you can see the i8 in person (without the blue camo) next month at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The model should arrive at the dealer in late 2014.