BMW just introduced an updated version of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports car for 2019, which means the automaker will soon need to think about plans for a successor. The new car is expected around the 2023 calendar year.
Among the plans being discussed is a switch to an electric powertrain, a possibility that's gaining strength now that BMW competes in Formula E.
BMW is currently discussing whether the next i8 goes the electric route or sticks with the current hybrid format, with senior officials leaning toward the former, Autocar reported on Monday citing sources at the automaker. A decision is expected in the second half of 2019.
2018/2019 BMW iFE.18 Formula E race car
Support for the electric powertrain is aimed at creating a link between BMW's Formula E program and the i sub-brand for electrified cars, though BMW may also want to provide a challenger to new electric sports cars being cooked up at Audi, Porsche and of course Tesla, which has already shown a redesigned Roadster with more than 600 miles of range and a 0-60 time of less than 2.0 seconds. The new Roadster is due on the market in 2020, should Tesla stick to its original schedule.
The biggest hurdle for BMW will be finding a suitable platform, according to Autocar's sources. The current i8's aluminum and carbon fiber platform wasn't designed to incorporate a big battery. An alternative could be modifying the platform of the upcoming iNext electric SUV, though an SUV platform isn't the best starting point for a sports car.
Should BMW stick with a hybrid format, expect the next i8 to be turned into a proper supercar with output well above the 617 horsepower of BMW's most powerful models at present. In this case, the current i8 platform could be retained for a high-performance powertrain combining powerful electric motors and a bigger internal-combustion engine than the current i8's lame-duck 3-pot. BMW R&D boss Klaus Froehlich hinted at such a possibility as recently as January.