BMW has already shown what appear to be near-production versions of its upcoming i3 and i8 electrified models, and we’ve even seen some mules out testing. But BMW is now adding a third variant to the mix. Behold the i8 Concept Spyder.
Although clearly similar to the coupe, there are a few key differences with its fixed-roof sibling. Whereas the coupe is a 2+2, the Spyder is strictly a two-seater, with a slightly shorter wheelbase and overall length.
But the fundamental power train arrangement carries over from the coupe. Namely, a plug-in hybrid powerplant featuring a lithium-ion battery, front and rear electric motors, and a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Combined system power is a claimed 354 hp and approximately 406 lb-ft of torque, giving the Spyder an estimated 0-60 time of under five seconds, and a top speed of 155 mph. Despite this formidable performance capability, fuel economy is an estimated 3 liters per 100 km (78 mpg US). Because all four wheels are driven, the i8 Spyder’s drive train can send power through the front, rear or all four wheels at the same time, depending on conditions.
BMW claims the battery can be fully charged in just two hours using a standard household plug-in outlet. However, remember that most of Europe operates on a 220v standard, whereas the U.S. and North America operate on a 110v standard, so figure roughly doubling that charge time for a standard outlet on this side of the Atlantic. When the i-series cars make it to the U.S., a higher-voltage quick-charge option (likely using the SAE J1772 standard) will be offered.
Efficiency is obviously a key design principle with the i-Series cars, and the i8 Spyder makes extensive use of lightweight materials in its construction. The car’s “Life Module” is made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, while the drive train modules are made from aluminum. Running through the middle of the chassis and cabin is what BMW is calling the “energy tunnel” which is essentially the housing for the lithium-ion battery pack.
As expected in an advanced-technology, efficiency-oriented car, the dashboard is configurable to display a wide variety of information through an 8.8-inch center display. And, appropriately for our constantly-connected age, integrated mobile apps can help drivers find the vehicle, get updates on the charging status, and with the Last Mile navigation function, offer guidance for the final destination on foot, as well as connections to public transportation through the Intermodal Route Planning function. The intelligent navigation system also incorporates information such as traffic congestion and elevation changes to proactively optimize the powertrain mode for maximum efficiency.
Yet for all the emphasis on engineering and efficiency, BMW did find room for some whimsical flights of fancy. Tucked away into the rear tailgate, electric kickboards (think Razor scooters) are for “relaxed cruising along promenades and paths or around city squares.”
How many of these features will reach production? It’s anyone’s guess. But many of them are not that far-fetched. Will we get the designer scooters as part of the deal? Well, there are those pesky NHTSA crash standards to deal with, so they might be moved to a different storage location, but hey, it could happen. Regardless, if the future means 78-mpg, 5-second 0-60 fun, we’re all for it.