BMW is moving ahead with its plans to electrify the driving experience. The company has already shown the i3 city car and i8 sports car numerous times, and both are headed for production. To keep the spotlight on these futuristic automobiles, BMW will unveil a convertible version of the i8, the i8 Concept Spyder, at the New York Auto Show.
The biggest headline for both the i8 coupe and Spyder is a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Electric motors in the front and rear drive all four wheels, teamed with a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Total system output is 354 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. Power can be shifted between the front and rear wheels for optimal traction. BMW says the i8 will accelerate from 0-60 mph in under five seconds, and will have a top speed of 155 mph. The company also says it will get 87 mpg.
The electric motors will get most of their power from a lithium-ion battery pack. BMW says the battery can be fully charged in two hours from a standard household outlet. However, that is from a more powerful (220v) European outlet; expect charging to take longer from a 110v American standard outlet. BMW also plans to offer a quick charge option when the i8 and i3 go on sale.
The design of the i8’s chassis is just as advanced as the car’s powertrain. A cage-like structure made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, called the “Life Module,” forms the i8’s backbone. Attached to that are aluminum structures that hold the gasoline engine, electric motors, and suspension. An “energy tunnel,” running down the middle of the chassis, houses the batteries. The i8 Spyder rides on a shorter version of the coupe’s chassis; it only has two seats, while the coupe is a 2+2.
On the inside, it’s hard to tell whether the i8 Spyder is a car or a tablet with a steering wheel. The digital dashboard can be reconfigured to show different information from the i8’s many subsystems. The navigation system can adjust the powertrain’s steup according to traffic and climate conditions. If the driver forgets where he or she parked, an app can find the i8 for them. Other apps allow owners to check on charging status, or give them walking directions if they can’t find a close enough parking space. Intermodal Route Planning does the same thing with public transit. When was the last time your car’s navigation system told you to take the train?
After all, one of the best ways to save fuel is to drive less. If an i8 Spyder owner decides to park their 155-mph sports car, they can remove the two electric scooters from the rear tailgate.
With its hybrid powertrain and futuristic chassis, the i8 is already generating a lot of excitement; the Spyder will only add to that. The i8 will drop its top at the New York Auto Show this week, although BMW is not saying whether it will be produced.