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The i: BMW's New Electric Brand

The i: BMW's New Electric Brand Debuted at Frankfurt Auto Show

In BMW nomenclature, the "i" at the end of a model name stands for "fuel injection." That will soon change with the "i" moving to the front to designate the company's new line of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Eventually this lineup will match the internal combustion lineup, but be built on platforms designed specifically for alternative powertrain use. The first two cars in this lineup, the i3 and i8, were debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show last September.

The BMW i8

This car is essentially the production version of the EfficientDynamics concept first seen in 2009. This 2+2 coupe uses a plug-in hybrid system that combines battery power with the same 1.5l direct injected three cylinder that will be used in the next 1-series and Mini. Despite its size, the engine produces 220 hp and 221 ft-lbs. of torque, which is mated to an electric motor that makes 129 hp and 184 ft-lbs. of torque. The gas engine is mounted in the back, providing power to the rear wheels via a dual clutch manumatic transmission, while the electric motor drives the front wheels through a 2-speed transmission. All-electric range is about twenty miles, and the electric and gas motors can be used in tandem to functionally make the car all-wheel drive.

The car is slightly larger than a 3-series, and is expected to match the M3's 4.5 second 0-60 mph time. An aluminum frame and carbon-fiber reinforced plastic body keep weight down to 3,300 lbs, slightly less than the current 3-series.

BMW has said the battery can be charged using a normal 220v outlet in about two hours, eliminating the need for a separate charging station. Production of the car will begin in 2014, with an MSRP expected to be around $240,000.

The BMW i3

While the i8 will lead the brand as a halo model, the i3 is aimed at mass-market sales. Initially available as an all-electric car, a plug-in hybrid version will join the lineup sometime in the future.

The car is about a foot wider and six inches longer and taller than the Mini. However, there are no plans for parts or technology sharing between the i3 and the BMW-manufactured Mini E electric car. Like the i8, an aluminum chassis and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body are used to keep weight down to just 2,800 lbs. Like most electric cars, the battery is in the center of the car below the floor, offering a low center of gravity and even weight distribution.

A single electric motor will drive the rear wheels up to a top speed of 150 kph (93 mph) with a 0-100 kph (0-62 mph) time of 7.9 seconds, almost a second slower than the Nissan Leaf. The battery will provide a driving range of 80-110 miles on a single charge.

Production of the i3 will begin in 2013. BMW executives have said the price for the car will be about the same as a high-end 1-series. Based on the current MSRP of the range-topping 1-series M coupe, this would put the i3 at around $45,000.





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