The BMW i8 Concept and the fascinating approach that underpins it embody the vision of a sustainable contemporary sports car brought to life. Its innovative plug-in hybrid concept combines the modified electric drive system from the BMW i3 Concept - fitted over its front axle - with a high-performance three-cylinder combustion engine producing 164 kW (220 hp)/300 Nm (221 lb-ft) at the rear. The electric motor in the BMW i8 Concept is a full-capability unit which can also power the car on its own, if required. However, working in tandem allows the two drive systems to display their respective talents to the full, delivering the performance of a sports car but the fuel consumption of a small car.
Acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under five seconds combined with fuel consumption in the European cycle of under three litres per 100 kilometres (approx. 94 mpg imp) and average customer fuel consumption of between five and seven litres per 100 kilometres (40.4 - 56.5 mpg imp) - even when driven hard - are figures currently beyond the capability of any vehicle powered by a combustion engine of comparable performance. Thanks to its large lithium-ion battery, which can be charged from a domestic power supply, the BMW i8 Concept can travel up to 35 kilometres (approx. 20 miles) on electric power alone. A large proportion of short everyday journeys can therefore be completed with zero emissions. The car's electric-only mode allows it to enter emissions-capped central areas of cities with access restrictions in place for petrol or diesel-powered vehicles. The i8 Concept's efficiency rating is further enhanced by its ability to generate energy at both axles. The electric motor at the front axle recoups maximum energy every time the driver brakes, while a high-voltage alternator hooked up to the combustion engine charges the battery, if required. Added to which, the 2+2-seater offers enough space for four people, giving it a high level of everyday practicality.
The emotional design of the BMW i8 Concept ensures its qualities are clear for all to see. Its dynamic proportions give the BMW i8 Concept the appearance of surging forward before it even turns a wheel and lend visual form to its extraordinary performance. The sophisticated concept behind the upward-swivelling doors fixed to the A-pillars underlines the car's sporting capability and opens up access to the front and rear seats at the same time.
A series of air inlets allow the air to flow through and around the vehicle to optimum effect, ensuring extremely low drag. They also add visual emphasis to these advanced aerodynamics. Airflow plays an extremely important role at the rear of the vehicle as well. Intakes behind the passenger cell and at the rear provide a cooling flow of air through the engine compartment, while outlets in the rear diffuser and the flow of air around the rear wheels ensure the car is extremely efficient in terms of lift and downforce at both axles.
The LifeDrive architecture of the BMW i8 Concept has been carefully adapted to enhance the vehicle's sports car character, and therefore to deliver unbeatable performance and excellent driving dynamics. The motor in the front axle module and combustion engine at the rear are connected by an "energy tunnel", which houses the high-voltage battery. This gives the car a low centre of gravity - and the dynamic benefits that come with it. The positioning of the electric motor and engine over their respective axles and the space-saving and well-balanced packaging of all components result in an optimum 50/50 weight distribution.
The weight of every component inside the BMW i8 Concept has been minimised down to the very last detail, allowing the extra weight of the electric drive system and battery to be cancelled out. The BMW i8 Concept therefore presents the ideal environment in which to sample this very special drive concept on the road. The passengers sit - in typical sports car style - in an extremely low and enclosed position inside the CFRP-constructed Life module (mounted above the Drive module).
The sporting character of the BMW i8 Concept continues into the interior. Boasting a driver-focused environment unmatched by any BMW Group vehicle before it, the BMW i8 Concept immerses the driver fully in the unique driving experience. The purpose-built driver's position is geared squarely towards the person at the wheel and gives optimum access to all information and controls. The three-dimensional displays are crystal clear and flash up the relevant information for the driving situation at hand. The interior as a whole is defined by the functionality of a classical BMW sports car and majors on lightness and ease of use. The BMW i8 Concept is the sports car for a new generation - pure, emotional and sustainable.