BMW i8 hybrid sports car leads the field in innovation
It’s better than your imagination. It’s faster than your thoughts. With its low-slung silhouette and sleek lines the BMW i8 hybrid sports car makes every other vehicle on the road look obsolete; and when the scissor doors open and hover above the roof, only gravity keeps it from racing the moon.
The i8 doesn’t look like a typical BMW, except for the kidney grill homage, but the emotional appeal of its aerodynamically optimized body design paves the way for an engagingly dynamic and futuristically efficient take on the company’s hallmark driving pleasure.
The vehicle, which is being launched in the U.S. this spring at a retail price of $135,700, was conceived from the outset as a sustainable plug-in hybrid, a concept that created a challenge for the engineers and designers to not only maintain performance levels for a BMW, but to surpass them. And with the i8 able to go from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds and get 94 miles per gallon, BMW i is now leading the pack in the sustainable hybrid sports car market.
“We are known for making ultimate driving machines and it was really a technical exercise for us to use all our engineering competence to show what the most efficient sports car performance could deliver,” said José Guerrero, product manager for BMW i. “That is really the concept with the i8.”
The BMW Group launched Efficient Dynamics over a decade ago with the aim of significantly enhancing the performance characteristics and efficiency of every new model. Efficient Dynamics incorporates both the evolution of existing technology and the use of revolutionary new drive system concepts.
With its intelligent drive system management, the BMW i8 strikes the balance between dynamic ability and efficiency in a variety of driving situations. The output of the engine and electric motor, the capacity of the high-voltage battery, intelligent energy management and the vehicle’s overall weight are tailored to form a precisely composed package that defines the unique character of the plug-in hybrid sports car.
“We looked at a sports car performance, yet we wanted to target the type of efficiency that you typically would see in a compact car,” Guerrero said. “This is like having your cake and eating it too.”
The architecture and design of the i8 highlight its innovation. Clean, minimalist lines and homogeneous surfaces defined by a small number of precise edges and function-focused details underline the structure of overlapping and interlocking surfaces. This layering principle allows aerodynamic forms to be wrapped up in a progressively styled package.
The compact construction distinguishing both the electric motor and combustion engine allows the front and rear sections of the car to be particularly low-slung and thus accentuate the car’s dynamically stretched flanks; and the scissor-type doors, which open forward and upwards like wings, add extra intrigue to the design.
“Our project managers said they wanted the i8 to be ‘like the dream car posters of the future. So if you had a dream car calendar, what would those cars look like in the future?’ And I said, ‘you know what, let’s design that,’ and what car wouldn’t be a dream car without these scissor doors,” Guerrero said.
The other key component to the vehicle is the innovative LifeDrive architecture, which opens up an exceptional degree of freedom for BMW i design. The central element of the Life module is the carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger cell. The Life module is fixed to the aluminum Drive module, which houses all the drive and chassis technology. This distinctive two-way split is reflected on both the outside and the inside of the car by the visible layering and intertwining of different surfaces, with three-dimensional and flowing transitions between the Life module and Drive module accentuating the dynamic appearance of the i8.
“From the get go, we picked an architecture that led to the vehicle dynamics of a BMW, yet we chose a whole new way of designing the vehicle from an architecture stand point, it’s like the body frame design of the old, yet with the most innovative materials used, which is carbon fiber and aluminum,” Guerrero said.
In the past few years BMW saw consumers’ thinking shift regarding environmentally friendly purchasing decisions. The consumers’ values started changing as sustainability and energy efficiency became more important to them.
“We saw this shift in customer perception, yes they can pay for more gas, money is not an issue as far as paying for gasoline and so on, but now there’s a shift into putting their money in where their values are,” Guerrero said.
That is why it was important to maximize the vehicle’s driving performance and miles per gallon – and the EPA estimates are at 94 miles per gallon for the i8.
In addition, as part of the development of BMW i cars, sustainability targets are established and then pursued with the same vigor as cost, weight or quality objectives. This all-embracing approach is reflected both in the selection of materials and in the construction and manufacturing processes, which differ substantially from conventional manufacturing methods in the automotive industry.
“The passenger compartment is made entirely out of carbon fiber, which is very energy intensive to create. So for us, we took a look at the most energy intensive process and we found a location where it could be made with 100 percent sustainable power,” Guerrero said.
The energy used to manufacture the carbon fiber at Moses Lake in Germany is provided exclusively by locally sourced renewable hydro-electric power, which means it is 100 percent CO2-free. Highly resource-efficient processes have also been put in place for the other stages of production for BMW i brand cars.
The result is a reduction of around 50 percent in energy consumption compared with the already highly economical average figures across the BMW Group’s production network and a drop in water consumption of roughly 70 percent. For example, the energy required for production of BMW i cars at the Leipzig plant comes exclusively from wind power. This was the first time that wind turbines had been installed at an automotive manufacturing plant in Germany to provide a directly supply of power to its production halls.
The BMW eDrive drive system technology, a compact, highly turbocharged 1.5-liter gasoline engine with TwinPower Turbo technology and intelligent energy management all come together to create the i8.
The three-cylinder combustion engine in the i8 develops 170 kW/231 horsepower and drives the rear wheels, while the 96 kW/131 horsepower electric motor draws its energy from a lithium-ion battery, which can be charged from a conventional 110 volt power outlet as well as a 220 volt electric vehicle charger, and sends its power to the front axle.
“This is really how we were able to get the efficiency and the incredible power output with this car,” Guerrero said. “It’s producing 231 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque.”
The electric motor gives an instantaneous response from the front end that is torque filling, which is completely seamless to the driver, who does not feel the front end and the back end working, it’s just a smooth transition with no dip or bumps in the drive. It’s all seamlessly done, and feels like one drive train, but actually there are two power trains in the car, a rear engine, and an all electric front engine.
“It’s something really unprecedented in the industry because the only other car out there to tell you the truth that is getting close to our efficiency numbers is the Porsche 918, and that sells for $845,000,” Guerrero said. “This is why our dealers are so exited, and people are really excited about this car, because there is no real other product out there that is ready to hit the masses and deliver this type of efficiency.”
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.