BMW brings plug-in hybrid roadster to the extremes

April 05, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
At the Beijing Auto Show later this month, BMW will show for the first time a two-seater sports car with hybrid electric drive. The vehicle exhibits rather extreme features and can be regarded as an example for what is possible today with a perfect blend of mechanics, electronics and smart connectivity.

The i8 ConceptSpyder has all the ingredients of a real sports vehicle - a twin-turbo gasoline engine with 164 kilowatts (223 hp), combined with an electric motor of 96 kW accelerate the vehicle to a speed of 100 kmph in 5 seconds on the way to an electronically governed top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). Nevertheless, when it comes to fuel consumption, the vehicle behaves more humbly than most subcompacts: According to BMW, the perfect balancing of electric and conventional drive along with elaborated energy recovery functions and extremely light body made of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) reduce fuel consumption to about 3 liters per 100 km which equals a fuel economy of 94 mpg imp in the European test cycle.

Another feature of the BMW i8 Concept Spyder is the ability to send power through the front, rear or all four wheels at the same time. Intelligent control electronics ensure that the optimum drive configuration is available for the situation at hand. The driver can view the driving mode currently engaged and monitor the activity of the two drive sources on information displays in the cockpit. Furthermore, the electronic systems ensure maximum energy recuperation under braking or when coasting.

The lithium-ion hybrid battery supplying the motor with power can be recharged in an extremely short space of time from any domestic power socket, BMW promises. The battery is housed in a place called by the BMW engineers "energy tunnel" which connects front and rear axle and, by the way, helps to achieve a perfect weight balance of 50:50 between front and rear axle.

A defining element in the car body is the headlights with laser light technology which follow BMW's U-shaped design template. The cockpit brings together the instrument panel, steering column and steering wheel with the instrument cluster, a large central information display and control elements. Two further displays inside the vehicle make up the interface between the