Because our resident automotive enthusiast Matt Burns up and decided to go camping this week, I was lucky enough to attend BMW’s sneak preview event in NYC today where I got a first look at two new eco-friendly vehicles: the BMW i3 and i8. Referred to as mega-city vehicles (or MCVs if you will), both are built with the urban driver in mind, capitalizing on green features and stability. The all-electric i3 is really more of a compact SUV, while the hybrid-electric i8 is a sexy little sports car.
We were lucky enough to get a hold of Richard Kim, external designer for both vehicles, who details the what and why of these new cars. A couple key points he made is that the vehicles are much lighter than your average car, thanks to carbon fiber-reinforced plastic materials used for the cars’ frames. The i3 and i8 have also been created from the ground-up, as opposed to electric or hybrid-electric vehicles that are merely conversions of existing models. In this way, the assembly and design of the i3 and i8 are much more efficient, with bulky batteries laying flush along the bottom and the “life module” seamlessly sitting on top.
You’ll see this in the video but it’s certainly worth reiterating that these are two of the most futuristic vehicles I’ve seen. There’s more glass than you’ll know what to do with (though it’s unclear how all that glass will do in a crash), and a nice hint of BMW’s i blue along design lines, seat belts, and lights makes for a streamlined and sporty look to complement BMW’s elegant style.
As far as range goes, the i3 and i8 are very different. The all-electric i3 will offer between 80 to 100 miles per charge, however BMW knows how much range anxiety affects consumers and provided a solution. The i3 has an optional range extender (or REX, as BMW calls it) which uses gas and motor to offer an additional 80 to 100 miles. However, the gas and motor are merely running to further charge the battery, rather than power the wheels of the car.
The i8, on the other hand, is a hybrid-electric vehicle, meaning it features both an electric motor along with an internal combustion engine. You’ll see around 20 to 30 miles per charge out of the i8, but when paired with the internal combustion engine that expands to about 300 miles combined.
I know, I know… it all looks and sounds great. But patience is the name of the game here. We won’t see the all-electric i3 until 2013, and the i8 will follow after in 2014. Pricing has yet to be announced.