2014 BMW i8 spy shots
One of the farthest advanced in the development of its eco sports car is BMW, which has spent the winter testing prototypes in the extreme cold of the Arctic Circle and will soon be taking them to Germany’s Nürburgring race track for some high-speed runs.
The new eco sports car from BMW will be called the i8 and is being designed as the performance flagship of the automaker’s new i sub-brand for environmentally conscious vehicles.
First previewed in concept form back in 2009 with the Vision EfficientDynamics Concept, the BMW i8 has since been confirmed for launch towards the end of next year, which means it will likely appear in showrooms as a 2014 model.
The car is being developed as a plug-in hybrid and pairs a three-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor. The engine is used to drive the rear wheels while the electric motor powers the front pair, though both power sources can work together to form an all-wheel drive setup. Running down the center of the floor is an "energy tunnel" that houses the high-voltage lithium-ion battery.
This gives the i8 a very low center of gravity--and all the dynamic benefits that come with it. The positioning of the electric motor and engine over their respective axles also helps provide an ideal 50/50 weight distribution.
BMW is predicting 0-60 mph acceleration of less than five seconds and a top speed of 155 mph for its i8, but with a fuel economy as high as 78 mpg.
According to CAR, the three-cylinder engine of the i8 will displace just 1.5 liters but will be turbocharged to deliver up to 223 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor is said to have a 170-horsepower peak rating, which would give the i8 a combined output of 393 horsepower.
Combined with an expected curb weight of around 3,200 pounds, made possible thanks to the use of carbon fiber and other advanced composites in its construction, the advanced drivetrain should be able to deliver BMW’s promised performance figures. Unfortunately, an even higher performance M version with a high-displacement engine is not planned at this moment.
That’s because the i8 is being developed with eco performance in mind. The car is expected to have an all-electric driving range of about 20 miles and even with the internal combustion engine working the combined fuel economy, as mentioned, should be as high as 78 mpg or better. To maximize performance, the i8 will offer a four-speed transmission instead of the single-speed unit other BMW i models like the entry-level i3 will feature.
It will also benefit from a host of active safety features including Active Brake Control with Pedestrian Recognition, as well as a Park Assist function and Congestion Assist, the latter of which will be able to drive the car autonomously in slow moving traffic and even navigate curves in the road.
Stay tuned for more updates as development progresses and look out for the world debut of the BMW i8 at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show.