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Paris show: Next BMW ‘i8’ supercar in the works
BMW R&D boss wants next supercar based on i8 chassis while future of i3 unclear
3 Oct 2018
By TIM NICHOLSON in PARIS
BMW’S i8 hybrid sportscar could spawn a next-generation electrified supercar in a few years’ time, if BMW AG board member for development Klaus Froehlich gets his way.
When asked whether he was keen for a competitor to the likes of the Mercedes-AMG One and Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercars, Mr Froehlich said he would like to produce such a car, but added that it would have to have some form of electrification.
“I have not given up,” Mr Froehlich told Australian journalists at the Paris motor show. “But I don’t think supercars in the 2020s will be V10s or V8s, I have to tell you. If you look outside the segment of the Ferraris and the McLarens for example, it will be electric cars.
“I see big potential if you look at a car with four-to-six cylinders and an e-motor for example. They normally are an all-wheel drive. Normally combustion at the rear axle and big e-motor with 200 or 300 horsepower (150kW or 225kW) on the front axle, I think they can deliver stunning performance. And so wait and see.”
Mr Froehlich said that the carbon-fibre chassis from the i8 sportscar would form a solid foundation for a higher-performing future BMW supercar.
“I have a wonderful carbon-fibre chassis for a sportscar in my portfolio,” he said. “Currently it is used in an i8. This car was launched in 2014.
“So I would like to use something like that with much more performance – electric and conventional. And then it will be very soon in the 600hp (447kW) region and it will not have a weight of two tonnes.”
He added, however, that the people calling for such a car were generally not the kind of people that would actually buy such a car, which made a successful business case a challenge.
“So I am looking forward but the problem is, like what we have with pick-up,” he said. “All these guys who want to have supercars are normally journalists who want to drive them – they do not want to buy them or lease them.
“This market segment is so small. There is always a business case discussion but I think we have to invest in the brand, too. So we will make very sporty cars, but not only in the supercar segment, in each segment. Supercar is my personal wish, but I have to convince my CFO.
“And I think there is a next window of opportunity when whatever we have (for the) lifecycle of i8. The chassis is so robust, so good and so lightweight, that I would like to use it for a second generation.”
Given the i8 has been around globally since 2014, a new model based on its underpinnings could surface in about 2021.
BMW’S M performance division chief executive Frank van Meel told journalists just after last year’s Frankfurt motor show that the company had no plans to produce a standalone ‘M’ model to rival either the Mercedes-AMG GT or One hypercar.
Meanwhile, Mr Froehlich called into question the future of the other ‘i’ model, the i3 electric city car, suggesting that such a high-cost car with carbon-fibre underpinnings was not viable in the long term.
“I do not think that this approach of fully carbon is now the best way to proceed. On a super-sportscar and (with a) high price, you can afford carbon-fibre.
“Then you are prepared to invest into high-cost carbon-fibre. That’s the reason why all super-sportscars use carbon-fibre.
“So we learned a lot on the i3, different technologies, but to make a shell of carbon-fibre in the city car segment, this is not financially viable.”
However, he said the i3 could feasibly continue on in its current lifecycle, and highlighted the sales growth the model has experienced every year since its global launch in 2013.
“Honestly, every year we have a new sales record of i3. So lifecycle of i3 is very strange because the segment is growing, the i3 is growing with the segment,” he said.
“Last year we had the highest sales volumes, this year we will have the highest sales volumes for a four/five-year-old car; i3 will have a long life and we just announced the next battery update.”
BMW revealed an updated version of the i3 in Paris that lifts the battery capacity from 94 to 120 ampere hours, which is double the 60Ah figure the car had when it launched five years ago.
Mr Froehlich suggested that the i3’s lifecycle could be longer than a regular internal combustion car, as long as it is regularly updated.
“Honestly, i3 is in a separate factory so I can produce it as long as the customer demand is growing. Of course, I have to update things, but this car will have the highest sales figures beyond 2020.”
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