Over the years, the motor industry faced many trends. Some were mostly superficial while others deeply changed the automotive world. In the last decades, people started to call for stronger environmental laws to save the earth from toxic emissions created by petrol engines. Consequently, car manufacturers started to work on the development of alternative energy vehicles. They started looking for different sources of energy, aside from fossil fuel, such as electricity, hydrogen, and solar power. While some of these inventions never see the light of day, some succeeded in making a big change in the automotive industry. For BWM, creating a zero-emission car was not enough and they really took the trend to a new dimension, unveiling the “I Series” and most specifically, the BMW i8, an amazing electric-powered supercar.
Backstory of the “I” Project
With the i-series, BMW’s goal was to create a high performance, lightweight, and eco-friendly consumer vehicles to compete with some of the best luxury cars out there and also to represent the company’s high-performance image. According to BMW, the “I” project had three phases. The Mini E, basically an electric Mini Cooper, was the first part. In January 2012, it was followed by a similar release with the BMW ActiveE, a BMW 1 series. Lastly, came the development of the BMW i3 that went into mass production in 2013.
After that, BMW was ready to start designing and manufacturing an electric vehicle with a true BMW DNA. i8 models were first unveiled in 2013 at the Frankfurt motor show. Their futuristic eco-friendly designs got them very good feedback from the press as well as fans of the German manufacturer. They finally started to be delivered to customers in 2014.
The i8 History
First step — BMW Vision EfficientDynamics
The journey to create the final “i8” model started in 2009 by unveiling the concept model “BMW Vision EfficientDynamics”, a plug-in hybrid 3 cylinders 1.5L turbo diesel engine coupled with a 139hp electric engine. This powertrain achieves a 0-60mph acceleration in less than 5 seconds with a top speed of 155 mi/h.
The lightweight chassis was made from aluminum, and the windshield and doors glass made from polycarbonate glass. The concept model of BMW i8 was designed by Mario Majdandzic, Jochen Paesen (lead interior design).
BMW i8 Concept
In 2011 BMW introduced the “BMW i8 Concept”, equipped with a 129 hp electric motor located on the front axle, and a 220 hp 1.5L gasoline turbocharged engine driving the rear wheels. Both motors result in a combined output of 349 hp and 406 lb-ft. The i8 Concept is equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack with a capacity of 7.2 kWh, cleverly using regenerative braking technology to recharge the battery. The top speed stayed the same at 155 mi/h.
BMW i8 Concept Spyder
The 2012 BMW i8 Concept Spyder, introduced a shorter wheelbase when compared to the “BMW i8 Concept”. Its body was mostly made from carbon fiber reinforced plastics and the drive modules from aluminum components. This car was unveiled in Auto China 2012 in Bejing and won Concept Car of the Year.
Not bad, right?
Design & Features
The design philosophy of the futuristic i8 is following BWM branding which has a unique mixture of sustainability and premium character to the car. The black elements, also called the “black belt”, that comes from the front of the car going all the way to the back of the car unmistakenly gives it the BMW’s touch that makes it stand out amongst its competitors.
Furthermore, the BMW dynamic streamflow is very obvious in the design of the front headlights the LED daytime running light, and also the LED rear lights.
The high-performance sporty look that everyone will notice in the first glimpse of the car is at the core of the i8. However, it’s not only made to look good. The low and wide front end with highly crafted aerodynamics brings the drag coefficient to 0.22, allowing the car to provide its owner with such impressive performance while still maintaining an impressively low fuel and electricity consumption.
The BMW i8 also comes equipped with full LED lights, which only adds to its character. The U shaped front angel lights containing the daytime running light and blinkers gives it a unique look.
To complement the futuristic high-quality finish of the outside, the interior elements are also elegant and well-positioned. The lightweight construction of the vehicle is also taken into consideration by using carbon fiber in the interior.
The classic BMW interior design is also very obvious in the i8, especially when it comes to the center console’s design, bending towards the driver, making all elements easily accessible while on the road.
BMW i8 Engine Specs
The BMW i8 comes equipped with a high-end powertrain and is often considered the supercar of the future. The “original” i8 was equipped with a 1.5L 3 cylinder engine, which might not seem that impressive. However, once coupled with the electrical motor and an intelligent six-speed automatic transmission it allows the i8 to go from 0 to 60mph in only 4.4 seconds.
After some time, the BMW i8 had two drivetrain changes. The first generation released (2014-2018) was equipped with an I3 turbo B38A15 petrol engine producing 228 hp at 5800 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque at 3700 rpm, along with the 129 hp/184 lb-ft electrical hybrid synchronous motor. Both motors combined output a significant 357 hp and 420 lb-ft at 0 rpm, making it impossible to be ignored by its competitors.
Then, another slight change happened around 2018. For the second generation, the German manufacturer used the same gasoline engine but the electrical hybrid synchronous was upgraded to 141 hp, causing the combined power output to go up to 369hp.
Battery and Energy Management
The BMW i8 is an energy-saving car. When only using the 7.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the i8 can deliver a usable capacity of 5.2kWh giving you around 22 miles at 75 mph.
Fortunately, since we would all agree that a 22 miles battery range is not that much, you can also select the hybrid mode to increase the range up to 330 miles.
The German manufacturer claims that the i8 is rated at 76 MPGe when driving in hybrid mode and around 28 mpg when only using the internal combustion engine. No need to mention that the BMW i8 is considered one of the most efficient eco-friendly cars in day to day use when compared to its competitors.
The BMW i8 is offered in the market in two versions: the Coupe version and the Roadster version. Obviously, you’ll need to pay extra cash for the open-air driving experience. Other features are the same such as the all-wheel-drive dual engine powertrain, the high-quality leather interior, the head-up display, the Harman Kardon sound system, and the BMW drive system. And if your budget allows it, you can also select the integrated full laser LED lighting system and the crystal white paint for an even more unique look.
Obviously, with all these different options and models, the i8 comes in a wide range of prices. But to give you an idea, the 2020 BMW i8 Coupe starts at $147,500. The Roadster, on the other hand, starts around $163,300.
Electric cars are causing a revolution in the automobile industry with performances and battery-range increasing every year. However, if you are looking for a true eco-friendly supercar, the BMW i8 is what you need. There’s simply nothing else like it, exception made of the Porsche Taycan. In all fairness, though, the Taycan is significantly more expensive. Let’s just say that, as of now, the i8 is a car that will definitely give you a lot of bang for your bucks.
But who knows what the future holds?