BMW i8

BMW's i8 prototype reveals preliminary technical details of production car

Adam Morath
Following the global debut of their i3 electric car, BMW has released new details for the second vehicle in their "i-brand" lineup. The BMW i8, which was revealed in concept form in late 2011, is a plug-in hybrid sports car that is expected to go on sale in 2014. Yesterday, a camouflaged prototype of the vehicle was shown at a test track in France.

Unlike the i3, the i8 will not be offered as an all-electric vehicle. The prototype features a combination of a 1.5-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo 3-cylinder engine and a 96 kW electric motor, for a total system output of 362 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.

In true BMW fashion, the rear wheels are driven by the gas engine, which accounts for 231 horsepower or roughly 87% of the system's output. The electric motor can send an additional 131 horses the front wheels, offering i8 drivers the benefit of all-wheel drive performance.

BMW i8 powertrain

The i-brand of vehicles promise to deliver the renown performance of a BMW in a sustainable package.
BMW says the all-wheel drive system is capable of dynamic torque vectoring, which automatically adjusts the amount of power sent to each wheel to enhance cornering capability. Combine that with a low center of gravity and "near-perfect" weight distribution due the placement of the heavy battery, and we're excited to see how the BMW i8 will handle once it's available for testing.

For now, we'll have to take BMW's word.

The automaker claims the i8 prototype is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 4.5 seconds. For comparison, that's nearly 2 seconds faster than reported 0 to 60 mile per hour times for the Fisker Karma extended range electric sports car--the closest thing to a BMW i8 on the road today.

BMW i8

BMW anticipates a 95 miles per gallon rating for the sporty plug-in, and up to 22 miles of gas-free electric driving on a fully charged lithium-ion battery. The carmaker says the battery can be recharged in about three and a half hours using a conventional 120 volt outlet, or one and a half hours using a 220 volt Level 2 charger.

The i-brand of vehicles promise to deliver the renown performance of a BMW in a sustainable package. Assuming the production version of the car will closely mirror the prototype, the i8 is sure to make good on that promise. BMW says the performance specs of the prototype are indeed preliminary, but they don't anticipate major changes.

One detail that remains unknown is the i8's sales price. While BMW has confirmed that their i3 electric car will start at $41,350, the high performance i8 is sure to command a premium. Most estimates peg the futuristic sports car at well over $100,000.

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