BMW’s new i brand presented a prototype of its second production vehicle, the BMW i8, at a driving event at the BMW Group’s Miramas test track in France.

In BMW’s words, the i brand is synonymous with visionary mobility concepts and a new definition of premium quality that is strongly focused on sustainability.

Following the world debut of the first production model, the BMW i3, the BMW Group’s next step will be to extend its offering to the sports car segment in the BMW i8.

BMW said this plug-in hybrid model is the most progressive sports car of our time, extending the basic BMW i philosophy of sustainability to a new vehicle segment.

The BMW i8 combines a lightweight, aerodynamically optimized body with BMW eDrive technology, a compact, turbocharged 1.5-liter BMW TwinPower Turbo gasoline engine and intelligent energy management.

According to BMW, thanks to its carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell, the BMW i8 sets new standards for a plug-in hybrid vehicle in terms of low weight.

The BMW i8 will offer the dynamic performance of a sports car, with an expected 0 – 60 mph sprint time under 4.5 seconds, per the Bavarian manufacturer.

The car’s plug-in hybrid system is specific to this model. Developed and produced by the BMW Group, it is said to mark the next step in the evolution of the Efficient Dynamics program. A compact three-cylinder petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology is combined with an electric drive system and a lithium-ion battery which can be recharged at a standard household power socket.

BMW_i8_Rear-668The 231 horsepower (170 kilowatt) gasoline engine sends its power to the rear wheels, while the 131 horsepower (96 kilowatt) electric motor powers the front wheels. This configuration offers all-electric driving capability with a range of up to approx. 22 miles (35 kilometers) and a top speed of approximately 75 mph (120 km/h).

With both drive systems engaged, BMW said it also offers road-hugging all-wheel-drive performance with powerful acceleration and dynamic torque vectoring during sporty cornering. The more powerful of the two powerplants drives the rear wheels. The hybrid system supplements this with power from the electric motor to deliver typical BMW driving pleasure combined with groundbreaking efficiency.

Calculated using the EU test cycle for plug-in hybrid vehicles, the average fuel efficiency of the BMW i8 at model launch will be less than 2.5 liters/100 km, which equates to approximately 95 miles per US gallon, with CO2 emissions of less than 59 grams per kilometer. Helping this is the drag coefficient (Cd value) of 0.26.

BMW_i8_Front-668BMW explained the front/rear location choice for the electric and gasoline engines by stating that “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 turbocharged gasoline 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.”

The three-cylinder engine, which is new, is derived from the BMW inline six-cylinder engines, to which it is closely related and which are noted for their eager power delivery, revving ability and refinement.

The BMW i8’s second power source is a hybrid synchronous electric motor specially developed and produced by the BMW Group for BMW i. The electric motor develops maximum power of 131 horsepower (96 kilowatt) and produces maximum torque of around 236 pound-feet. BMW eDrive technology refines and improves on the principle of the permanently excited synchronous motor via a special arrangement and size of the torque-producing components. This results in a self-magnetizing effect normally confined to reluctance motors. This additional excitation ensures that the electromechanical field generated when current is applied remains stable even at high rpm.

The rear wheels of the BMW i8 are driven by the gasoline engine via a six-speed automatic transmission. The front wheels are driven by the electric motor via an integrated two-stage automatic transmission. Combined maximum power and torque are 362 horsepower (266 kilowatt) and 420 pound-feet.

The BMW i8 will make its world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show and arrive in BMW showrooms in 2014.