BMW’s new range of electric and hybrid i-cars is becoming reality. The ultra-futuristic concept i8 was shown at the Geneva Auto Show, but the diminutive i3 MegaCity Vehicle may be closer to production.
BMW likes to use the tag line “Born Electric” to describe it’s new line of “i” cars. Rather than adapting a current fossil-fuel car to an all-electric or hybrid drivetrain (e.g., electric versions of the Ford Focus or Toyota RAV4), the i-cars are designed from day one to be electric or hybrids.
The advent of the fully electric vehicle gave BMW Group engineers the opportunity to completely rethink vehicle architecture. LifeDrive is a revolutionary body concept that has been specifically designed for alternative drive trains and uses materials in innovative ways. It consists of two horizontally separated, independent modules.
The Drive Module
optimized components in chassis
The Drive Module (an aluminum chassis) forms the solid foundation of the vehicle and combines the battery, drive system, structural and basic crash functions into a single lightweight, high-strength construction. The priority in the conception of the Drive Module was to integrate the battery – the largest and heaviest factor in the electric vehicle– into the vehicle structure so that it would be operationally reliable and safe in a crash.
The Life Module
secure and lightweight CFRP structure
Its partner, the Life Module, is similar to what one might find in a Formula 1 car: a high-strength and extremely lightweight passenger cell made from CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic). The Life Module opens up a whole new chapter in design freedom: the BMW i3 for example offers inspiring shapes and significantly more space for its size.
Here’s BMW’s description of the i3:
BMW i3 – The MegaCity Vehicle
The BMW i3 is an example of “purpose design”, which means it isn’t simply an adaptation of what already exists. It is a completely new and visionary vehicle concept.
Sustainable Mobility for Megacities
In megacities around the world, a need has arisen for a new kind of sustainable personal mobility that works on many levels. It has to have minimal environmental impact, both on the city’s streets and on the planet itself. It has to deliver an effortless, and comfortable driving experience. And it has to intelligently integrate personal mobility within the wider public transport system. The BMW i3 has been created from scratch with all these needs in mind. Whatever questions the megacity may ask, this electric car always has an intelligent, sustainable, beautifully designed answer.
Advanced, lightweight construction
The BMW i3 integrates the newly-developed drive components into a completely new vehicle architecture. Lightweight construction throughout the car and innovative use of CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic) offers significant benefits to the customer and the environment.
Interior Design Freedom
The BMW i3 boasts significantly more space for its size. The LifeDrive structure also enables the integration of new functionalities and is far less restrictive in terms of vehicle layout. This design freedom allows the interior of the BMW i3 to be inspiringly shaped and sculpted for the demands of urban mobility. Intelligent and intuitive displays, driver assistance systems and location based services make city traveling convenient, streamlined and effortless.
The interior is further enhanced by the use of sustainable and natural materials that create a relaxing atmosphere and define a new level of premium design.
This is the latest spy video of the BMW i3 testing in cold weather in Sweden. I particularly like seeing the rear wheels spin because rear drive in a small car is a rarity and it’s so much more fun!
The i8 is a much more expensive, serious sports car. The prime purpose of this car is to showcase BMW’s engineering expertise, its dedication to low and zero-emissions vehicles and BMW’s vision of “efficient dynamics.” The i8 is powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain consisting of two electric motors (front and rear axles) and a rear-mounted 3-cylinder diesel engine.
The combined power generates enough torque to propel the i8 like a rocket (M3 acceleration territory, according to BMW) while sipping fuel like a humming bird. As currently configured, the i8 gets approximately 62 mpg diesel (3.7 liters per 100 km on the European test cycle). In keeping with a “proper” BMW sports car, the i8 is capable of 250 kph (155 mph).
Just one question: Why do Germans seem to speak better English than most American adults?
We know BMW is serious about i8 production. Here is a recent spy video of a prototype i8 testing in cold weather in Sweden:
We should see BMW’s i-cars coming to market by 2015. Since LA is usually ground-zero for new green technology in the US market, I’m sure we will be one of the initial markets for this all-new line of electric and hybrid cars.