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BMW i8: New York City Launch

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Megan Green December 2011

The BMW i8 is touted as "Born Electric." Where its companion car in the i sub-brand, the i3, is compact and more family friendly, the i8 is the built-for-speed eye candy. Previously unveiled in North America at the 2009 LA Auto Show as the Vision EfficientDynamics Concept, the Project i team retained some of the design elements, renamed to bookend the i sub-marque with the i3, and brought the concept closer to actual production.

Richard Kim, the exterior designer, explains that the design lines on this low-slung car were "inspired by aerodynamics... the line work the way the forms sweep across the car make the car seem like it's in motion when it's standing still." A new element that BMW has been teasing the world with for months can be seen on the front of the i8; U-shaped laser headlamps, an intense light source that uses half of the energy of LED lamps, projected to be ready for production within a few years. The traditional BMW kidney grille shapes between the aser headlamps are primarily for brand identification, forming an "i" with the glowing blue-circled badge dotting the "i", and below the headlamps are the "air curtains." Kim explained further that the air "shoots through the air curtains," then the "high pressure behind the wheel shoots it out from below," and is then directed across to the rocker panel and cuts through the U-shaped rear headlamps, effecting extremely low drag.

Like the i3, the i8 Concept is built using modular LiveDrive Architecture. The i8, however, is a plug-in hybrid with an electric motor and a three-cylinder combustion engine that work together simultaneously. It is capable of electric-only mode to drive emissions-free with a range of around 20 miles, but is most efficient - and powerful - when driven as intended, as a hybrid. The Drive Module is configured differently than the i3; a central tunnel is added back into the i8 to accommodate front-placed lithium-ion battery cells, running between the electric motor over the front axle to the combustion engine over the back axle, resulting in low center of gravity and even weight distribution. Oh, and it can go from 0-60 in less than five seconds.

One design element from the 2009 concept brought forward to the i8 Concept are the two side glass doors that flip up, hinged to the A-pillar. The Life Module is glass and carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), an extremely strong and lightweight material, allowing for such a large wing-like door to operate on two simple hinges. The lightness of the CFRP also counteracts the heavy weight of the electric drive system, improving performance and just as importantly, range. There is no B-pillar and the interior - and back seat - appears fairly open and comfortable for the back of a sports car. Trunk space is limited to 150 liters - or just under 39 gallons.

Electric vehicle-specific remote access have been added to existing Connected Drive functions, such as remote-controlled charging, battery charge status, and warming up the car - with an electric vehicle, known as "thermal preconditioning" for both the batteries and the interior of the car. Inside the dash is a screen for the instrument panel which also depicts fuel levels and available range. Recharging the battery can be completed within two hours using standard household outlets.

The BMW i8 is scheduled to be available in 2014. BMW recently furthered their commitment to their innovative use of CFRP in their vehicles by buying a 15.16 percent stake in manufacturers SGL Carbon SE. It is clear that this futuristic car is set for actual production and will become more than a shiny fantasy on the rotating platform of an auto show. The i8 aims to please in looks, performance and eco-consciousness. Baby, it was born this way.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
BMW i8: New York City Launch - Autotrader