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Frankfurt show: BMW flicks switch on production i8

Here it is: BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer unveils the plug-in hybrid i8 sports coupe at Frankfurt motor show.

BMW’s plug-in i8 true to concept after 32-million-kilometre technology gestation

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BMW logo11 Sep 2013

THE see-through doors are gone and the headlights have been toned down, but BMW’s production plug-in hybrid i8 supercar – revealed this week at the Frankfurt motor show - is close to the concept that has been floating around since the same show two years ago.

Designed from the ground up as a petrol-electric bahn stormer, the 21st century 2+2 coupe is set to go into production in early 2014 with the United States as its largest target market. Australian sales are expected in late 2014.

BMW promises the i8 and smaller all-electric i3 city car will spearhead a push into electrification by the world’s biggest prestige car-maker.

Unveiling the new car at the world’s biggest motor show in Frankfurt, BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer described the i8 as BMW’s mission impossible – a pun on the movie of the same name in which the concept car played a starring role.

“Many people doubted whether the i8 would actually be built,” he said “They saw it as a mission impossible. But, here it stands today as a series model.”

Mr Reithofer said BMW believed in “e-mobility”, and planned to grab a significant market share.

“We intend to grow profitable with electro-mobility,” he said.

BMW says development work in the ‘i’ technology started in 2007, with more than 1000 people racking up 32 million kilometres in cars fitted with electrified powertrains.

True to the concept, the new all-wheel-drive i8 gets a high-tech, light-weight carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell and aluminium space-frame chassis and powertrain cradle – dubbed LifeDrive architecture.

The doors still open upwards like wings, but are constructed of CFRP with an outer aluminium skin instead of the fanciful transparent plastic that graced the concept shown at the Frankfurt show in 2011.

Headlights are LED, but the advanced, world-first laser alternatives will be available as an option.

Powered by BMW’s first three-cylinder petrol engine with a BMW-engineered electric drivetrain, the i8 can shoot from zero to 100km/h in just 4.4 seconds, making it the second fastest-accelerating BMW behind the M6 Coupe (4.2 sec).

The 1.5-litre petrol engine pumps out a startling 170kW and 320Nm, delivering power to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 96kW/250Nm electric motor draws power from a 5kWh lithium-ion battery, driving the front wheels through a two-stage auto transmission.

Combined, the two power units produce 266kW and 570Nm which BMW says endows the 1490kg i8 with the performance of a purebred sports car.

Combined fuel economy is said to be 2.5 litres per 100km, with the first 35km driven on pure electric power. Top speed is 120km/h, while maximum driving range is said to be more than 500km on a combination of electricity and petrol.

The battery can be charged from a 240-volt socket in less three hours, but BMW’s ‘i Wallbox’ charging station can reduce that to an hour.

The driver can select from five driving modes, ranging from Electric to Sport, with the latter delivering an “ultra intense” power boost from the electric motor in combination with the petrol engine.

The i8 rides on 20-inch alloy wheels, a double-wishbone front axle and five-link rear end, with dynamic damper control. Carbon wheels are optional.

Just four colours will be offered, at least initially, including the sky blue shown at Frankfurt.

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