With its combination of the aluminum Drive module and the CFRP passenger cell (Life module), the BMW i8 is also an excellent example of intelligent lightweight design – one of the guiding principles of the Efficient Dynamics strategy. Use of the lightweight high-tech material CFRP, which also offers excellent crash performance, brings weight savings of 50 per cent over steel and around 30 per cent over aluminum, with equivalent or improved strength. These savings offset the weight penalty of the electric motor and the high- voltage battery, giving the BMW i8 an unladen weight of less than 1,490 kilograms. The LifeDrive architecture also brings benefits in terms of weight distribution. The battery pack is situated low down in the middle of the vehicle, resulting in a low and central centre of gravity, which improves safety. No other current model of a BMW Group brand has such a low centre of gravity.
Powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine and a duo of electric motors, the BMW i8 produces 357 horsepower and a whopping 420 pound-feet of torque. The all-wheel drive i8 actually has two transmissions, including a six-speed automatic for the gas engine and a two-speed automatic transmission for the electric motors. BMW’s hybrid accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in only 4.2 seconds, although independent outlets have reported times as brief as 3.6 seconds. The i8 has an electronically limited maximum speed of 155 mph.
The front-rear axle load distribution maximizes agility with a near-perfect 50:50 axle load ratio. The compact electric motor, together with the transmission and power electronics, are situated in close proximity to the electrically powered front axle. The highly turbocharged petrol engine, which is located together with its transmission in the rear of the BMW i8, likewise sends its power to the road via the shortest possible route, i.e. through the rear wheels. As a finishing touch to this excellent weight distribution, the lithium-ion battery pack is centrally located in the vehicle, slightly forward of the mid-point. In terms of crash safety, this is an ideal location for the battery, which is integrated in an aluminum housing.
Fuel economy is also surprising considering the blistering performance and raucous exhaust. The 2016 BMW i8 achieves 28 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. When used as a plug-in hybrid with eDrive, the i8 achieves a 76 mpg-equivalent. The i8 has an electric-only range of 23 miles and takes about two and a half hours to fully charge at a level 2 charging station, which can also be installed at your home.