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BMW i8 hybrid sports car engines will be built in the UK

BMW i8BMW’s i8 extended-range electric sports car is inching closer to production. This sexy, eco-minded sports car debuted as a concept at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and the Bavarian Motor Works promised petrolheads that they would be able to buy it in the near future. That time seems to be approaching, since BMW has chosen a plant to build the i8’s three-cylinder gasoline engine.

The internal combustion component of the i8’s powertrain will be built in Hams Hall, near Birmingham, England. The Hams Hall plant currently builds engines for Mini, as well as the BMW X1, 1 Series, and 3 Series.

Three cylinders doesn’t seem like much, especially in a sports car like the i8, but this engine will primarily be charging batteries. The i8 is an extended-range electric vehicle, like the Fisker Karma and Chevy Volt, so it uses fossil fuels only when its batteries are drained. The i8 will also be able to recharge its batteries by plugging in to a charging stand.

The results should be impressive performance and fuel savings. The three-cylinder may only displace 1.5 liters (and produce 223 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque) but, the i8’s combined output (including electric motors) will be a respectable 393 hp and 406 lb-ft. BMW claimed a 0-62 mph (0-100 kph) time of 4.6 seconds, and an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph, for the i8 concept.

However, the i8’s eco-worthiness should really set it apart from other sports cars. The i8 will be able to operate as a front-wheel drive electric car, a rear-drive sports car, or a four-wheel drive hybrid. BMW says it will have an electric-only range of 20 miles. The company expects the production i8 to return 33 to 47 mpg in real world driving, and up to 87 mpg when driven by a hyper-mile hero.

The i8 will also have a sophisticated chassis, called the “Life Module,” that consists of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. The engines, transmission, and suspension are bolted to aluminum subframes. BMW is using the same design on the smaller i3 city car.

With engines churning out of Hams Hall, production of the i8 should begin in 2014. In addition to the 2+2 coupe first shown in Frankfurt, there will also be a convertible Spyder. If the i8 is really as exciting, and green, as BMW says it is, it can’t arrive soon enough.

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