BMW's first entries into its i-car range include the i8 petrol-electric hybrid (left) and the all-electric i3 hatchback.
Carmaker unveils electric vision with stylish concepts BMW has officially unveiled the two founding members of its eco-friendly "i" electrified vehicle sub-brand, the plug-in i3 hatchback and the hybrid supercar i8.
Both models carry the company's "future of mobility" banner and are built using BMW's LifeDrive construction method.
This essentially splits the car into two parts: an aluminium Drive section which houses the battery, suspension, and crash structures and a Life passenger section made from carbon-fibre reinforced plastic - a material at least as strong as steel but 50 per cent lighter.
By using LifeDrive BMW claims to have cancelled out the weight penalty associated with the heavy battery packs electric cars must carry.
The i3 is taller, wider but 30cm shorter than a Volkswagen Golf, but weighs just 1250kg, or about 50kg less than the lightest Golf.
The "i" cars come with a few subtle styling updates to mark them out as eco-specials.
A blue ring now circles the badge, and the kidney grilles now have a matching blue background.
BMW's double circle headlights are replaced by U-shaped LEDs and both models take on a more curvaceous design than the firm's conventionally powered models.
The tall hatchback i3 gets an electric motor that delivers 125kW/250Nm to the rear wheels.
Acceleration from zero to 100km/h takes 7.9 seconds and the i3 is electronically limited to 150km/h.
BMW says parts of the i3's doors and floor are made from natural materials, while 25 per cent of the entire vehicle's plastic components are produced from recycled or renewable materials.
Power is drawn from a lithium-ion battery mounted underneath the floor which is fitted with an integrated liquid cooling system to keep the battery at the optimal temperature.
In winter, the battery can also be heated by the same method. A full recharge from a standard socket takes six hours, and a quick charge can fill the battery to 80 per cent in just one hour. On a full battery the i3 manages a 225km range, or an everyday range of 130-160km, says BMW. The hero of BMW's i-car range is the i8 plug-in hybrid, previewed in Auckland last month by the Vision EfficientDynamics concept.
The all-wheel drive i8 employs the same front-mounted electric motor as the i3, but adds a 164kW/300Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine at the rear.
Both the front motor and rear engine are positioned directly above each axle - a move that BMW says delivers perfect 50/50 per cent front/rear weight distribution.
The petrol-electric drive system is said to allow the four-seater i8 to hit 100km/h in less than five seconds while returning combined fuel consumption of 3 litres/100km.
BMW says i8 drivers will be able to select from three separate drive modes: all-electric, in which the sportscar can travel for up to 35km; with its petrol engine only, during high-speed motorway driving; and with a combination of motor and engine.