Clean, minimalist lines and homogeneous surfaces defined by a small number of precise edges and function-focused details underline the status of the BMW i8 as the most forward-looking car in its segment.
The front view of the BMW i8 exudes sporting ability in its purest form. The BMW I series LED headlights perfectly fit the sports car concept. The optional laser light technology increases headlight range and illumination considerably, and a passive band of blue light serves to accentuate the innovative technology of the system.
The two fantastic wing-like doors underline the cars sportiness. Upon opening, the doors rise up to produce a stunning visual effect, and integrate perfectly with the smooth lines of the aerodynamic body. Thanks to the aluminium, carbon fibre and plastic used in their manufacture, these doors are approximately 50 percent lighter than if made with conventional materials.
The classic sports car character of the interior is evident in the driver orientation of the cockpit. The instruments and digital control panel with two large displays are intuitively designed for ease of use. All the passengers sit low in classic sports car style in lightweight, form-fitting seats that ensure a firm hold as well as great comfort, even when taking curves at speed.
The LifeDrive architecture, similar to that of the BMW i3 model, consists of the Drive module, an aluminium-based modular structure that houses the drivetrain, on top of which rests the Life module, the carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger compartment. This modular system results in an extremely low centre of gravity and a curb weight of only 1,490 Kg, along with a nearly perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
The low, 1,490 kg weight of the BMW i8 is principally the result of the carbon fibre (CFRP) used in the Life module. This extremely lightweight material doesnt reduce the safety of the passenger compartment. This highly rigid and impressive high-tech material is about 50% lighter than steel and 30% lighter than aluminium.
For the rest of the vehicles components, intelligently selected lightweight materials are incorporated. The doors, for instance, are framed with the CFRP material, while utilising an aluminium exterior panel. Aluminium is also used in the suspension and 20-inch wheels, which are forged, not cast. Additionally, the BMW i8 is the only production car that offers optional CFRP wheels. Each CFRP wheel is 3 kg lighter than the standard wheels and contributes to vehicle dynamics by reducing suspended mass in a critical zone of the vehicle.
The magnesium supports that the mudguards are mounted onto are 30% lighter than traditional materials. The innovative use of foam material for the air conditioning channels generates a significant 60% reduction in weight when compared to conventional materials and also acts as acoustic insulation.
The BMW i8 is the first production car to use thin, chemically tempered glass. The rear glass that separates the passenger cabin and boot is made from this terrifically hard material, and is similar to the glass used on smartphone displays.
The BMW i8 propulsion system is composed of the BMW TwinPower Turbo and eDrive technologies. For this reason, this plug-in electric hybrid vehicle combines the best of both worlds: greater efficiency along with sports car performance.
The BMW i8 is also the first production model from the German firm to come equipped with a three-cylinder, 1.5 litre engine.
This highly turbocharged engine comes equipped with the very latest BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, which comprises a high-performance turbocharging system and direct gasoline injection with high-precision injectors positioned between the valves, along with VALVETRONIC throttle-less load control, which improves efficiency and response thanks to seamlessly variable valve lift control. A cushioning element located in the gearbox reduces vibrations to a minimum, diminishing any moments of instability.
The cars second power source is a hybrid synchronous electric motor. Besides offering a spontaneous response typical of electric motors, power delivery is available right up to the high rpm ranges. The electric motor also has the additional support function of boosting the petrol engine during acceleration. And, of course, the car may be driven in just electric-only mode, eliminating emissions and reducing noise to a minimum.
This motor gets its power from a lithium-ion battery that is recharged by plugging into a standard household electrical outlet. This type of plug-in hybrid system, developed and manufactured by BMW Group, allows for driving with just the electric motor for up to 22 miles, at a top speed of 75 mph. As the petrol engine powers the rear wheels, and the electric motor the front wheels, under certain conditions when both motors are working together, the BMW i8 is an all-wheel-drive car.
Five driving modes
Aside from a six-speed automatic transmission, the driver may select from five distinct driving modes. The D mode is the most automated and by far the most comfortable for driving, as the car itself selects which motor to use as well as the appropriate gear.
SPORT mode offers sequential manual gear selection, adjusts the suspension setting and switches to very sporty drive, while the engine and electric motor deliver a more rapid accelerator response. SPORT mode also activates maximum energy recuperation during deceleration and braking.
Two other modes are Eco Pro and Comfort, and with a touch of the eDrive button the driver can select pure electric driving, which multiplies the possibilities. The Eco Pro selection is the mode that achieves maximum economic efficiency. If the eDrive button is activated in this mode, the car will only be powered by the electric motor with speeds up to 40 mph, unless the battery runs low, in which case the petrol engine is activated automatically. Finally, the Comfort mode offers a balance between sporty performance and fuel efficiency, all the while ensuring passenger comfort. If the eDrive is not selected in Comfort mode, the petrol engine will activate after 40 mph, but if eDrive is activated in the mode, the petrol engine wont activate until 75 mph.
Plugging into an outlet recharges the battery. By using a standard domestic outlet, the battery will require a minimum of three hours to fully charge, and less than two hours if using a BMW I Wallbox, a charging station that installed by a technician. The usable capacity of the battery is 5 kWh.
There is also an energy recuperation strategy: when decelerating or braking, the electric motor acts as a generator. Additionally, when using the petrol engine, the cars kinetic energy can be used to charge the alternator and starter engine.
The multimedia system deserves a separate chapter. For this second model of the brand, BMW i offers a wide range of products and services for 360° ELECTRIC. The 360° ELECTRIC portfolio focuses on home recharging, recharging at public charging stations, right up to innovative driver assistance services.
The BMW i8 is equipped with an integrated SIM card. This card provides the car with the intelligent connectivity required to take advantage of the BMW ConnectedDrive multimedia services. Standard BMW I series equipment includes the Navigation system Professional, as well as a cruise control system with braking function, a rain sensor with automatic headlight control, and a Park Distance Control (PDC) with sensors on the front and rear.
The navigation services (which includes a range indicator that displays how far the car can go on the map), especially developed to address the issues related to electric driving, complete the services that include Concierge Service, Intelligent Emergency Call function and the Online Entertainment music-on-demand service.