BMW is opening up a whole new chapter with the unveiling of the i3 and i8 concepts that you see here. These concepts will spawn two production vehicles in 2013 as part of a brave new sub-brand aimed at truly putting the Bavarian outfit on the map as a 'green' carmaker.
The two vehicles, which embrace all-electric and hybrid technology, are aimed at completely different ends of the market, the i3 being a compact city car and the i8 taking a stab at the sports car realm. Let's take a look at what each one offers:
BMW i8 CONCEPT:
The i8 employs a plug-in hybrid system that mates a front-mounted 96kW/250Nm electric motor and a rear-mounted 164kW/300Nm three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine to provide M3-like acceleration, via a total system output of 260kW and 550Nm.
Driven gently, however, BMW claims that extreme efficiency is on the cards, with combined EU-cycle fuel consumption of under three litres per 100km. Its large lithium-ion battery allows the car to travel up to 35km on electric power alone.
Positioning of the power sources over each axle helped engineers achieve an ideal 50/50 weight distribution while the central 'energy tunnel' that connects them and also houses the chargeable battery, keeps the centre of gravity as low as possible. Weight is also minimized, to 1480kg, through the use of innovative materials.
Perhaps not as impractical as it looks, the sports car offers accommodation for up to four people, says BMW.
BMW i3 CONCEPT:
Previously referred to as the Megacity Vehicle, the i3 will be BMW's first series-produced all-electric car and it's aimed squarely at urban dwellers that don't need a long-distance range.
Seemingly production-ready in every respect, the concept is powered by a 125kW/250Nm electric motor that fits over the rear axle and it should be quite a performer by city car standards, BMW claiming a 0-100km/h time of less than eight seconds.
Innovative use of materials keeps the vehicle's weight down to just 1250kg - not bad for a car carrying batteries. This also allows the car to achieve what BMW calls an 'everyday' driving range of between 130 and 160km on a single charge, with a standard charge taking six hours, although with the right equipment an 80 percent charge can be done in one hour.
Inside the i3, there is seating for four and the cabin is accessed via wide-opening 'coach' doors while the boot capacity is rated at 200 litres. Inside the cabin, BMW engineers sought to create a lounge-like atmosphere, with the so-called 'Life module' conjuring up a feeling of space. Aiming to be sustainable too, parts of the dashboard and door panelling are made from natural fibres although the 'naturally tanned' leather seats might not go down too well with the greenies.
The i3 is also truly in touch with the modern connectivity age. Owners can use their smart phones to find their vehicles, flag up nearby charging stations and even start charging or preconditioning the car at the touch of a button.