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BMW Announce Details of Innovative New Electric i3 and i8 Models

BMW has released details of their two new i-models, the i3 and the i8, which they claim will transform the way that motorists and their cars interact.

The BMW i3 Concept is an all-electric urban vehicle with LifeDrive architecture, giving a light, innovative and sustainable vehicle for city use. Its rear-mounted 125 kW/170 hp electric motor gives rapid acceleration with 62 mph (100km/h) being reached in less than eight seconds. More importantly for urban use, the sprint to 37 mph (60 km/h) takes less than four.

The i3 has a range of between 80 and 100 miles (130-160 km) and the lithium-ion battery can be 80% charged in one hour with a full charge taking six.

The i3’s ‘Life’ module interior seats four people and has over 200 litres of luggage space making it suitable for longer journeys as well as for commuting. The leather seats are naturally tanned and part of the instrument panel and door panelling are made from natural fibres. There is also a free-standing steering column with integrated instruments making the traditional binnacle superfluous.

The BMW i8 Concept is a larger, faster sports car powered by a combination of an i3 electric motor fitted in the front and a rear-mounted three-cylinder combustion engine that produces an additional 164 kW/220 hp. Acceleration is lively with the 0-62 mph (100 km/h) dash taking under five seconds yet fuel consumption is around 94 mpg (3 l/100km) overall. The electric motor can also be used alone and has a range of approximately 20 miles (35 km).

As a 2+2 seater the i8 has perfectly balanced 50:50 weight distribution and a low centre of gravity giving sports car handling. The sporty theme continues inside the car as the LifeDrive cockpit ‘immerses the driver fully in the unique driving experience’ according to BMW.

Both cars feature unusual construction, which BMW call ‘LifeDrive’. The aluminium Drive module comprises the drive train, suspension and steering and incorporates crash functions. The Life module is made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) to produce a lightweight, secure passenger compartment that provides high levels of protection to the occupants in the event of a collision.

Bold though the engineering and design of the cars is, the most intriguing announcement is the way that BMW intend to integrate technology into their i-models.

Both vehicles incorporate a camera-based proactive Front Protection system that provides active safety to help prevent accidents or mitigate injuries across the entire speed range by detecting an imminent collision risk and warning the driver so that they can brake in time to avoid colliding.  Below 37 mph (60 km/h) it can also detect pedestrians and, as well as warning the driver, can brake automatically if necessary.

Parking Assistant will steer, brake and accelerate the cars automatically when parking – the driver has no input into the process. Even more impressive is the Traffic Jam Assistant that automatically maintains a specified following distance from the vehicle in front, braking and accelerating as necessary, although the driver does need to still steer.

Owners will also be able to use their Smartphone to control intelligent navigation systems, identify car parks that have spaces available, seek information on the local area and liaise with partners including MyCityWay and ParkatmyHouse. E-specific features will also include remote-controlled charging and remote-controlled thermal preconditioning of the battery pack and vehicle interior.

Both cars are due to be released in 2013 although no details of prices have been announced.

About Carlton Boyce

Carlton Boyce
Carlton Boyce is a freelance journalist and photographer covering all aspects of the motoring industry.

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