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by John Cadogan

The BMW i8 will spearhead a lineup of cool-but-green new BMWs due in Australia in 2014. Apparently, ‘i’ is the new green for BMW, which has trademarked the names ‘i1′ through ‘i9′ inclusive, as possible future green cars. The i8, when it arrives in Australia, will slot in at the absolute top of the BMW product lineup – which means it’ll cost you more than $300,000.

Its detractors will doubtless point out that $300K-plus is a lot of hoot, to start saving money on fuel. It’s, like, $275,000 more than an Econetic Fiesta, which means you’d never break even … not even if you drove to Pluto and back in it, 57 times.

Of course, that’s not the point. BMW is demonstrating, with i8, that green need not be boring, that clean, efficient future cars can have more emotional engagement than a toaster or tumble drier (or a Prius … same thing). New tech always slots in at the top of the market, expensively, and then gets rapidly cheaper – remember when 40-inch TVs were $10 grand? Same thing here.

The i8 is the production version – and logical extension – of the Vision EfficientDynamics concept car, which graced the Australian International Motor Show recently.

Although an Mi8 isn’t officially on the drawing boards, BMW says that when the i8 uses all the squirt available from both the internal combustion engine and its twin electric motors (one at each end) it will have the same kind of acceleration and top speed as today’s M3 – which most people would agree is beyond adequate. Part of that performance is obviously a product of the car’s advanced materials and construction delivering light kerb weight.

The new i8 also proposes to deliver sub-Prius fuel economy (though probably not at the same time as it’s delivering M3-like acceleration – that would be some neat kind of trick, however much it violated the first law of thermodynamics).

Basically, the i8 uses a big bank of lithium-polymer batteries running down the spine in the floorpan to power the electric side of the driveline. These can be plugged in to recharge overnight or while you’re at the office, but the car also reclaims some kinetic energy from dynamic braking (the way a ‘beige’ hybrid does today) and also uses a thermoelectric generator to turn waste exhaust heat into electricity.

When you take off an i8 in the morning you can leave silently, without tailpipe emissions, on electric power alone.

The i8 has been spied cold-weather testing in Europe, there’s video vision circulating the web of a version of it on the Abu Dhabi F1 track, and a rumour the production car will feature a petrol engine, as opposed to the three-cylinder turbocharged diesel  proposed in the Vision EfficientDynamics concept car. BMW R&D boss Klaus Draeger explained the decision to shift from diesel to petrol was made so that the i8 had broader global appeal, opining that diesel was really only relevant, in particular, to Europe.

Back in February BMW launched its new marketing slogan to support the ‘i’ sub-brand: ‘Born Electric’. BMW corporate headquarters buildings in Munich were illuminated with the new tag, together with the Munich Opera House and on several squares throughout the city. The traditional BMW roundel is also slightly modified on upcoming ‘i’-branded cars.

The BMW i8 will be launched globally shortly after the debut of the i3 – the production version of the Megacity concept car. Both ‘i’-branded vehicles will be built in BMW’s Leipzig manufacturing plant.

  • Tarvold

    If you wanted a car that is as fast as an M3, yet more economical than a Prius when driving at Prius speeds, why not just get an M3?

    • nickdl

      Or if you wanted a car as fast as an M3, yet as economical as a Prius, you could just get an M3 and a Prius, with $120K to spare. However it would be nowhere near as special as buying one of these.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1715760895 Charles Dean

    This is nothing more then a gimmick.. If you want performance get M3, if your after economy get a PRIUS..

    This doesn’t even have a niche..

  • Right

    Ever since I first saw it I have absolutely loved its design.

  • http://www.nsmg.com.au Wil-son

    This is really at the pinnacle and cutting edge of car design and technology. This is the sort of car we dreamed about in the 80’s from movies like Blade Runner etc!! I’m glad BMW has had the guts to put it out there. I buy one when I win lotto tonight!!

  • AndrewF

    I am very happy they can demonstrate that green need not be boring. But what I actually want to see is a demonstration that green can be cheap… and I’m still waiting.

    • r6

      you can get an all electric vmoto emax scooter in aus with a 100k range, 50cents to charge, no 2stroke issues that plague normal scooters

      • AndrewF

        Hardly. Emax looks cheap compared to this BMW but at $4,400 ride away it doesn’t look all that great compared to its actual competition which is other small scooters, not supercars. And ‘2 stroke issues’? Please… when was the last time you’ve been anywhere near a real scooter? There are plenty 4 stroke ones on the market that will still run rings around this Vmoto while costing less.

        • Ben

          Clearly you have never ridden an electric scooter. They are quicker and more usable than an equivalent class (LA) petrol. 

          I have not ridden the Emax, but I have ridden some I personally imported and I profiled them directly against petrol scooters, both 2 & 4 stroke. My electrics we quicker accelerating, faster top speed, much much better up hills. Didn’t happen but they were going to be sold at very similar prices to petrol scooters. various models ranged from $2100. 

          Electric is a hands down winner in this contest, sorry to burst your bubble.

  • Sonic

    One of the best looking road cars I’ve seen.

    Question though… What does the ‘i’ actually stand for?

  • Lukaas

    300K for a ‘GREEN’ car.

    BMW show casing their abilities… but lack of practicality.

  • Shak

    It is not pointless. To you and i, maybe, but for BMW it is a rolling test bed for technologies that it will eventually use in its entire line up. Its like the Flat Screen TV argument. When they were first released, they were damned expensive and the early adopters were asked about what could be fixed. Same with technologies such as carbonfibre panels,E-REV propulsion systems and thermoelectric generators etc.

    • Peter

      Agree. To dismiss cars and technology like this is very narrow minded.

  • bobin

    wonder how it will go in side impact crashes?

  • Al Juraj

    It wouldn’t make sense to put it into production unless they can dramatically bring down the price. But the car design is something BMW could use to finally build that long-awaited R8 killer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.zaharis Peter Zaharis

    I hope they make a Mi6.
    Ok sorry. Bad joke I know. But it was what first popped into my head when Mi8 was mentioned. :)
    But totally agree with Shak. All new technologies start expensive and then get cheaper. This is the start for BMW and as they work on the technologies more and more things will get cheaper and make their way into the rest of their line up. I really look forward to seeing what BMW comes up with and where they go with these technologies.

  • Ldw7552

    BMW would be foolish to price this car way over the Fisker Karma because it would only drive more customers to buying the Fisker Kama. I like quite a bit of others are waiting on the anouncement of the i8 price. If it’s in th same ball park i’ll take it over the Fisker just because of design and not the millage.