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.”
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere