BMW Confirms i8 Roadster and Refreshed i3, Announces i Next
Hybrid tech to expand further to mainstream models.
The BMW i8 Roadster will launch in 2018 as part of a large-scale expansion of Project i, said BMW Chairman Harald Kruger at the company's annual accounts press conference. Kruger also confirmed that later this year there will be an updated version of the BMW i3 with not only 50 percent more battery capacity, but also a refreshed design.
Kruger also claimed that in the next few years BMW will "see further progress in terms of the vehicles' range, for both BEVs and PHEVs." That means that the BMW i8 and new BMW i8 Roadster will likely see improvements to its 22-mile all-electric range and relatively small 5.1-kWh battery pack, but it also suggests a fully electric i8 could be in the works. The current BMW i8 combines an electric motor with a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline three-cylinder gas engine for a total of 362 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
Following the debut of the BMW i8 Spyder concept at the 2012 New York auto show (above), it was thought that BMW would chop the top off the i8's roof soon after the coupe launched in 2014. Major development snags with the carbon fiber-reinforced plastic construction stalled development, however.
The announcement also confirmed earlier reports that the BMW i3 will receive an updated battery pack with 50 percent of additional capacity, as well as a refreshed design. All-electric range will now total about 120 miles with upgraded internals to the lithium-ion battery pack, although the current battery offering 81 miles of range will continue to be available as a lower-priced option. BMW has declined to comment on whether existing i3 owners will be able to retrofit their vehicles with the updated battery tech.
Kruger's other big revelation was BMW's plans for an all-new Project i model, dubbed the i Next. "This highly innovative model will be BMW i's new spearhead of innovation and technology. It will enable us to take BMW i to the next level," said Kruger. "The i Next will cover all aspects relevant in the future: autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight construction, a trendsetting interior and the next generation of electro-mobility."
Aside from its futuristic Project i division, BMW will continue to parlay this hybrid technology into its more mainstream models, as it has done with the X5 xDrive40e and upcoming 740 e iPerformance. The BMW 2 Series and 3 Series are confirmed to also receive similar hybrid integration, which we expect will expand to existing models like the 5 Series as well as future models like the X7 due in 2018. Mini will also launch a new plug-in hybrid model in the next few years.
BMW has made it clear that it's betting big on technology to drive the future of its brand identity and products. Many point to it as a leader of hybrid and carbon-fiber technology, as well as design.
"Since its introduction in 2013, we have delivered more than 50,000 BMW i vehicles to customers," said Kruger. "Today, the BMW i lineup has a larger market presence than any other electric vehicle. BMW i assumes a key role as an enabler for our BMW core brand: BMW i attracts new customers to BMW."
We'll have to wait and see just what BMW has up its sleeve with Project i, but our intel points to a new model—the BMW i5 sedan—as early as 2019.