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First look: BMW takes the i road

BMW flicks the switch: Revolutionary i3 city-EV will hit European roads in 2013.

Ground-breaking BMW i3 city-car and i8 super-coupe officially unveiled in Germany

29 Jul 2011

TRUE to its word, BMW revealed what it describes as the future of premium mobility in Frankfurt tonight, when it staged the global debut of the first two models to appear under its ground-breaking ‘BMW i’ electrified vehicle brand.

Both the i3 city-hatch and i8 super-coupe will be produced at Leipzig in Germany from 2013, but the five-door i3 runabout will attract the lion’s share of i-car sales.

Riding on a 2570mm wheelbase and measuring just 3845mm long, 2011mm wide and 1537mm high, the first all-electric production model from BMW is slightly larger than the three-door Mini hatch, but significantly smaller than the most compact BMW-badged model, the 1 Series hatch.

The four-seater i3 concept features a pair of opposed 'coach' doors on each side, 200 litres of luggage space and, thanks to a production-first carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) modular ‘LifeDrive' body that rides on a separate ‘drive module’ chassis (reducing overall weight by a claimed 250-350kg), a kerb weight of just 1250kg.

14 center imageThis is despite the fact the battery-electric i3, previously known as the MegaCity Vehicle (MCV), can store enough energy to deliver a zero-emissions driving range of up to 160km.

BMW says the i3’s lithium-ion battery pack can be fully charged in six hours, or to 80 per cent of capacity within an hour in fast-charge mode.

Its front-mounted electric motor produces 125kW of power and 250Nm of virtually instantaneous torque – enough to deliver claimed 0-100km/h acceleration in a respectable 7.9 seconds and an official top speed of 150km/h.

Continuing the eco-theme, BMW says parts of the i3’s doors and floor are made from natural materials, while 25 per cent of the entire vehicle’s plastic components are produced from recycled or renewable materials.

However, the headline act of BMW’s revolutionary i-car range is the i8 plug-in hybrid super-coupe, which as previewed by the Vision EfficientDynamics concept emerges as a stunning two-door performance coupe with transparent body sides.

The all-wheel drive i8 employs the same front-mounted electric motor as the i3, but adds a 164kW/300Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine at the rear.

Both the front motor and rear engine are positioned directly above each axle - a move that BMW says delivers perfect 50/50 per cent front/rear weight distribution – with the CFRP body module reducing its centre of gravity.

Apart from delivering trademark BMW handling, the petrol-electric drive system is said to allow the four-seater i8 to hit 100km/h in less than five seconds while returning combined fuel consumption of a staggering 3.0L/100km – a figure unmatched by any production vehicle this quick.

BMW says i8 drivers will be able to select from three separate drive modes: all-electric, in which the sportscar can travel for up to 35km with its petrol engine only, during high-speed freeway driving and with a combination of both motor and engine.

No interior images of either the i3 or i8 were presented at the lavish Frankfurt reveal hosted by BMW CEO Dr Norbert Reithofer and attended by German transport minister Dr Peter Ramsauer, but stand by for further details from our man on the ground in Germany.

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