NEW YORK CITY – BMW debuted the second generation concept model of its i3 and its new i8 Spyder concept at its week-long “Born Electric” World Tour, which kicked off in Manhattan. The automaker invited actress Uma Thurman to the event, and she helped present the new concept vehicles.
The automaker originally showed concepts for the i3 and i8 in New York in Nov. 2011, in addition to explaining its plans for its new "i" sub-brand. As for how electric models from BMW fit into the fleet industry, Automotive Fleet's Editor Mike Antich interviewed BMW North America's former President Jim O'Donnell last year, which you can read here.
Starting with the i3, although this model is a concept, BMW stated it plans to sell a production version of the i3 in 2013. The compact electric vehicle concept features a lightweight design, signature BMW design elements (the BMW front end), high-end sustainable materials used throughout the design, and the automaker’s new “LifeDrive” electric drive vehicle architecture. LifeDrive consists of a two separate modules. The “Drive” module incorporates the drive system, battery and chassis, and basic structural and crash functions. The “Life” module is the passenger cell, which is constructed from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP).
The i3 features different driving modes, the ECO PRO mode, which is designed to increase driving range and reduce power consumption. The ECO PRO+ option is a “range-maximizing mode,” in which heating and air conditioning operate at minimum power levels, and other auxiliary systems that use electricity, such as heated seats and mirrors, are shut down.
Inside, the cockpit features a freestanding steering column, which houses a number of controls, including the instrument cluster, start/stop button and gearshift lever. The vehicle has three displays to control various vehicle functions, a 6.5-inch display that shows the instrument cluster, an 8.8-inch display that is the central information display and shows connectivity applications, for example. The third display shows the audio system and climate control controls.
In terms of performance, the four-seater compact EV’s powertrain can produce up to 170 hp and peak torque of 170 lb. ft., can accelerate from 0 to 37 mph in under four seconds, and to 62 mph in under eight seconds.
Also shown at the event was the i8 Spyder roadster concept, BMW’s second take on a sports car version of a plug-in hybrid. The automaker stated that the i8 concept roadster has a shorter wheelbase and isn’t as long as the original BMW i8 coupe concept introduced about a year ago. The roadster features a 131 hp electric motor and a turbocharged three-cylinder gasoline engine capable of getting 223 hp, for total system output of 354 hp. Fuel economy is 87 mpg (from the European test cycle) and the vehicle has a range of more than 300 miles. Electric-only range is 20 miles.
BMW is also developing a number of connectivity features that are designed to provide a link between the vehicle and the driver’s life outside the vehicle, for example a Car Finder app that helps a driver locate a parking spot, find charging stations, warm up the vehicle, and give the driver information about the vehicle’s status. Next, BMW has developed a Last Mile Navigation function, which assists drivers after they have parked their car by providing walking route instructions directly to a smartphone. BMW’s Intermodal Route Planning function provides information on parking availability at the driver’s destination.
The automaker hasn’t stated whether it plans to build a production version of the i8 Spyder concept plug-in hybrid roadster yet.
During the event the automaker also showed findings from York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management that projects changes in how the changing demographic makeup of cities will change how people travel.
The study shows an urban population boom, an increase in the number of single-person households in urban areas (the study said the population age 65 and older in New York City is expected to increase by more than 36% by 2030), thus resulting in more demand for “walkable” areas in cities. In addition, the study predicts growing demand for parking and the need for greater communications and electrical (for example for charging stations) infrastructure.