With its bleeding-edge styling and technology, is this 2015 BMW i8 a forecast of what we’ll be driving in the near future?
Automotive trends start in two places – motorsports and flagship vehicles – and we’re starting to see electric vehicles (EVs) in both.
Automakers create and test new technology in auto races, then that tech is eventually brought down to their passenger vehicle line-up. Currently, they are honing their electric vehicle prowess in the second season of the new Formula E, a class of racing that uses only electric-powered cars. Picture a traditional F1 race car. The FE cars look similar, but emit almost no sound.
Auto manufacturers also create flagship or showcase vehicles, like this i8.
Much like in high fashion, automotive trends start at the very top – couture – then trickle down to the masses. Think of entry level models as everyday street style. Think of the i8 as BMW couture, a sort of “look what we can do, and how the coolness will touch our entire line-up!”
And much like in fashion couture, flagships are produced in limited quantity – about 6,000 i8s have been sold globally – and, starting at $150,000, it’s BMW’s most expensive vehicle.
Couture indeed – look at these cutlines!
The i8 is a plug-in hybrid sports car. Its 7.1 kWh lithium-ion battery delivers a range of 25 km, but when coupled with the turbocharged 1.5 L 3-cylinder gasoline engine, the total range is 530 km. More impressive is its low fuel efficiency; in EV mode the i8 will achieve a 3.1 L/100km, and when running only on gas it’s 8.1 L/100 km.
When considering the power this vehicle outputs, those ratings are even more impressive.
The two engines output a combined 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. It’ll go 0–100 km/h in 4.4 seconds, with a top speed of 250 km/h.
Then factor in its very low weight of 1,485 kg, and it takes off like the rocket ship that it resembles. Drop into Sport mode, and a fake-but-good-sounding engine note is pumped into the cabin.
But the best part about any hybrid or electric car: the instant torque never gets old.
So a vehicle that’s better for the environment than a traditional sports car, while providing the same power and speed of one, sounds pretty great right?!
So why aren’t we seeing more of them on the road? There are two reasons.
As always, money is a main factor. As mentioned earlier, a 2015 i8 starts at $150,000, and that’s if you can even get on the waiting list.
Moreover, you’ll likely need a second vehicle, as it’d be tough to make an i8 your only car. Because of the two engines plus batteries, the trunk space is a tiny 154L. While it technically has a backseat, I can’t even fit into it, and I’m the size of a troll doll.
But the biggest reason we’re not seeing more EVs is infrastructure. Because the car can have all the batteries it likes, but if there’s nowhere to charge them there’s no point.
When did you last see a supercharger at a highway gas station? Or a parking lot? Sure we’re starting to see them in large urban centres, but beyond the city limits there’s little saturation.
For electric cars to go mainstream, chargers will have to start permeating our roads and parking lots. There will have to be one charging station at home, one at the destination, and several along the driving route. And they’ll need to be the more expensive 240-volt superchargers, because waiting all day for a charge isn’t realistic.
It will come. We will drive electric vehicles in our lifetimes, but it will take a bit longer to get sorted than is often presented.
Until then, i8 drivers will enjoy the attention this rare car receives. The effect this vehicle has is nuts. Watch jaws drop and camera phones rise, as you zoom by, because again, the instant torque. OMG.