Last week BMW announced it would launch an optional range-extending engine to its carbon-fiber-reinforced-plastic bodied, i3 electric city car, due in Germany by 2013.
This news comes just around three months after Volt lead engineer Frank Weber was hired away by BMW, and talk then was they were thinking of creating more range-extended vehicles.
At the time of his hiring, BMW already had in the works the petrol-plus-electric i8 sports car. It also is due for production in 2013, but details are vague, with unknown launch date for either car in the U.S.
The i3 will also be available as an all electric, and is to be the first to make range extension via petrol an option. Its engine will reportedly be a two-cylinder, possibly 600cc, will serve as a generator only and not to directly drive the wheels a la Chevy Volt.
The i3 was originally called the MegaCity when the concept first came out a couple years back. It was conceived as an all-carbon fiber bodied electric vehicle, and is actually a third-generation EV design.
It builds on BMW’s work with the limited-production, lease-only Mini Cooper EV, and the also limited-availability and lease-only electric 1-Series Active-E, due this fall.
The expected range for the approximately 22-kWh, lithium-ion-powered, all-electric version of the i3 will be 80-100 miles, and top speed will be limited to 93 mph.
It will be rear wheel drive, with a 170-horsepower motor mounted to the rear axle as is the case with the Active-E 1 Series.
Its dimensions are about 151 inches long, 79 inches wide. Wheel base will be around 101 inches, so it will be kind of like the Nissan LEAF, albeit much lighter and upscale.
The carbon-fiber-bodied creation is expected to weigh around 600 pounds less than a LEAF at around 2,756 pounds.
No word on pricing yet, but it is being speculated that the super-light, strong, rigid and difficult-to-form body, plus high-tech gadgetry throughout could easily see it topping well over $50,000.
The i8 will also be constructed of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. It will be an all-wheel-drive, plug-in hybrid sports car which BMW says is capable of dashing from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, and reaching 155 mph.
How does it do this, yet remain at least somewhat environmentally responsible? By mating a 129-horsepower electric motor to the front drive wheels, and a 220-horsepower 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder gasoline engine to turn the rear wheels.
The environmentally sensible part will largely be realized when nursing it around town within the confines of its 22 miles of all-electric range from its approximately 8-kWh lithium-ion battery.
BMW said it will achieve over 100 mpg on the European drive cycle.
Of course if the i8 driver wants to push the exotic hybrid, gasoline power is always available to propel the 3,300-pound car with all of its 349 gas-plus-electric horsepower.
It will have three driver-selectable modes in all, the third being simply gasoline power, with ability to switch between modes assuming the battery half the size of the Volt’s is still charged.
While making less power than a full-on supercar, its dimensions are suggestive of high-line exotics. According to BMW, it is 182 inches long, 77 inches wide, and 50 inches tall.
BMW did not announce a price projection for the i8 either.
It did however say that a mid-range i5 will be made available in 2016, three years after the i8 and i3 are released. The i5 is expected to use the same powertrain as the i8.
More information on both the i3 and i8 is available at their Web sites linked above, although some details will not be announced until closer to their launch.