Published on July 9th, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
BMW i8 Coupe, The Sports Car Of The Future
BMW i stands for the creation of pure-bred vehicle concepts, sustainability throughout the value chain, complementary mobility services and a fresh understanding of premium defined squarely in terms of sustainability. And now the BMW Group can unveil the BMW i8 – a new, cutting-edge generation of sports car. The second model unveiled by the new BMW i brand combines a plug-in hybrid drive system with a passenger cell made from carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) and an aluminium frame for the combustion engine and electric motor, the battery pack and the suspension. With this revolutionary concept and the emotional appeal of its aerodynamically optimised body design, the 2+2-seater – which was conceived from the outset as a plug-in hybrid – paves the way for an engagingly dynamic and futuristically efficient take on BMW’s hallmark driving pleasure. By cementing the brand’s new premium character, strongly defined by sustainability, in the sports car segment, the new i8 also demonstrates the broad spread and universal appeal of the BMW i philosophy.
The research and development activities carried out by the BMW Group since 2007 as part of its project i initiative have laid the groundwork for a visionary car conceived with the impact of environmental, economic and social change around the world very much in mind. Alongside its conceptual and technological development work, the company has also conducted field studies looking at the use of pure-electric vehicles in everyday conditions. More than 1,000 people have taken part in the studies, racking up in excess of 32 million kilometres (20 million miles) at the wheel. The knowledge gained as a result has been channelled into the creation of innovative vehicle concepts and mobility solutions.
Breaking new ground: premium cars underpinned by sustainability-led concepts arrive in the sports car segment.
The development of BMW i cars follows a revolutionary approach, a strategy focusing on the creation of premium cars purpose-designed to be powered by purely electric or plug-in hybrid drive systems. This electric drive technology (packaged under the BMW eDrive banner) is therefore a central component of the vehicle concept – in contrast to the “conversion” model, where vehicles are retrofitted with electric drive systems. Characteristic BMW driving pleasure coupled with emission-free mobility, precise energy flow management, pioneering design, intelligent lightweight construction and production processes that preserve energy and resources come together to mutually complementary effect to form the innovative, sustainability-led premium character of BMW i cars.
The BMW i8 was conceived from the ground up as a plug-in hybrid sports car boasting agile performance attributes and extraordinary efficiency. Its LifeDrive architecture – developed specifically for BMW i – offers the ideal platform for a weight-minimising construction, low centre of gravity and even weight distribution. The combustion engine and electric motor, battery pack, power electronics, chassis components, and structural and crash functions are all arranged within the aluminium Drive module, while the central element of the Life module is the 2+2-seater’s CFRP passenger cell. This structure also allows a considerable degree of design freedom, which has been utilised – within the framework of the design language developed for BMW i – to give the BMW i8 its distinctive appearance.
The perfect balance of performance and fuel consumption: the BMW i8 represents an exciting new landmark in Efficient Dynamics.
The BMW i8 offers a revolutionary and future-focused interpretation of BMW’s signature driving pleasure – and in so doing, makes its case as the world’s most progressive model in the sports car segment. The plug-in hybrid drive system developed and manufactured by the BMW Group specially for the BMW i8 represents a new stage of evolution in the Efficient Dynamics development strategy.
The BMW Group launched Efficient Dynamics over a decade ago with the aim of significantly enhancing the performance characteristics and efficiency of every new BMW Group model. Efficient Dynamics incorporates both the evolutionary further development of existing technology and revolutionary new drive system concepts. For example, efficient vehicle concepts focusing on lightweight design and aerodynamics, dynamic drive systems featuring both BMW TwinPower Turbo technology and BMW eDrive, and intelligent management of all the energy flows within the vehicle are brought together in different models. BMW i cars benefit from the introduction of revolutionary new technology which subsequently finds its way into the models produced by the core brands of the BMW Group.
As a world-leading supplier of premium cars and, increasingly, also premium services, the BMW Group is playing an active and defining role in the changing face of personal mobility. And awareness of issues such as resource scarcity, climate change and creeping urbanisation is also growing among the public. The BMW Group’s commitment to sustainability has long been a key element of its corporate strategy and is one of the fundamental principles enforced throughout the company’s value chain, as independent studies have regularly confirmed. Indeed, the BMW Group has been named the “world’s most sustainable automobile manufacturer” in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for eight consecutive years.
BMW i8: the trailblazer for a new generation of sports car.
The underlying principle of Efficient Dynamics – more driving pleasure, lower fuel consumption – is expressed with particular purity by the BMW i8. With the performance attributes of a pure-bred sports car and the fuel consumption of a small city model, the first BMW plug-in hybrid vehicle hits heights only attainable through the revolutionary BMW i vehicle concept. And that makes the BMW i8 a trailblazer for a new generation of sports cars, defined by not only their performance characteristics but also by intelligent solutions to the challenges personal mobility will encounter over the years ahead.
Thanks to its revolutionary vehicle concept and intelligent drive system management, the BMW i8 strikes the optimum 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. Its all-electric driving range is sufficient to cover most urban driving requirements, and out of town, the BMW i8 offers impressively sporty performance which is also very efficient thanks to the power-boosting support for the petrol engine from the electric motor. Efficiency and driving dynamics alike are optimised by the broad application of lightweight design – from the CFRP passenger cell to the weight-reduced construction of all other components – and mobility services developed specially for BMW i. The all-encompassing approach of the BMW i brand also includes the extensive use of recycled materials, renewable raw materials and naturally treated materials, alongside extremely resource-efficient production methods. This overall concept marks the BMW i8 out as the world’s most forward-looking sports car, bringing thrilling performance into line with progressive efficiency and, in the process, boosting driving pleasure and sustainability awareness in equal measure.
Sustainability: the reference point for the entire development process.
As part of the development of BMW i cars, sustainability targets are agreed and then pursued with the same vigour 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 low overall weight of the BMW i8 (1,490 kilograms) can be credited primarily to a passenger cell made from CFRP. Although it lends a component at least equal rigidity, this extremely lightweight high-tech material is 50 per cent lighter than steel and 30 per cent lighter than aluminium. The principle of intelligent lightweight design is applied to all the car’s components.
The doors are made up of a CFRP inner structure and an aluminium outer skin and weigh 50 per cent less than a conventional construction. The intelligent construction of the magnesium instrument panel support brings a weight saving of around 30 per cent compared with the BMW 6 Series, for example. In addition, the high structural rigidity of the magnesium support structure gives it a strengthening effect which allows the number of components to be reduced, thereby lowering weight by a further 10 per cent. Innovative foam plastic technology used in the air conditioning ducts cuts their weight by 60 per cent compared with a conventional solution, while also improving acoustics thanks to its sound-absorbing properties. The fact that the power electronics and electric motor are directly connected reduces the amount of wiring required, while partial use of aluminium wiring enables a further reduction in weight.
The BMW i8 is also the world’s first volume-produced vehicle to be equipped with chemically hardened thin glass. This innovative technology, so far used mainly in smartphone manufacturing, lends the material impressive strength. The partition between the passenger compartment and boot of the BMW i8 consists of two layers of chemically hardened glass, each of which is just 0.7 millimetres thick, with acoustic sheeting sandwiched in between. In addition to excellent acoustic properties, a further advantage of this solution is a weight saving of around 50 per cent compared with conventional laminated glass.
As well as weight, the potential for preserving resources is a decisive factor in the choice of materials. The majority of the aluminium used in the BMW i8 is either gained through recycling or produced using renewable energy. Added to which, the BMW Group has developed a globally unique recycling concept for CFRP components, body components and segregated production waste which sees offcuts from the manufacturing of CFRP components and reusable materials from accident-damaged and end-of-life vehicles either fed back into the production process or used for other applications.
The BMW Group is the world’s first carmaker to employ an environmentally friendly process for the treatment of leather. The leather for the surfaces of the seats and the instrument panel is tanned using olive leaf extract. This avoids the creation of environmentally damaging production residue as well as giving the leather a particularly high-quality and natural look. The cattle hide comes exclusively from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and the natural treatment process takes place in Germany. This keeps distances to the BMW i8 production facility at BMW Plant Leipzig pleasingly short.
The textile materials used in the interior of the BMW i8 for accent strips on the seats and door trim, the roof liner, the floor mats, the body pillar trim and floor covering are made in an innovative recycling process. The polyester granules that serve as the source material are produced from materials including recyclable PET and are combined with 40 per cent virgin wool in a special process to create a high-grade cover fabric. The manufacture of the key for the BMW i8 involves another innovative form of raw material production; its casing is made from a biopolymer based on castor beans. The oil gained from the beans is mixed with 30 per cent glass fibre to make an extremely high-quality and robust material.
Resource-efficient processes from material production to vehicle assembly.
The extensive use of CFRP is a central element in the revolutionary vehicle concept underpinning the BMW i8, and the BMW Group is also a leader in this area of the production process. The use of CFRP on the scale required for the BMW i models is without parallel in the automotive industry worldwide. The BMW Group has teamed up with its joint venture partner, the SGL Group, to oversee a factory in the USA making carbon fibre. The facility is located in Moses Lake, Washington State, and represents an integral link in the value chain for the production of BMW i cars. Indeed, it secures the BMW Group a supply of the high-quality and sustainably produced basic material required for the manufacture of CFRP components. The carbon fibres produced at Moses Lake are made into lightweight laminates at the Wackersdorf Innovation Park in Germany. These are subsequently turned into CFRP parts and components in the press shops at the BMW plants in Landshut and Leipzig.
The energy used to manufacture the carbon fibres at Moses Lake is provided exclusively by locally sourced renewable hydro power, which means it is 100 per cent CO2-free. Impressively 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 per cent 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 per cent. For example, the energy required for production of BMW i cars at the Leipzig plant comes exclusively from wind power – i.e. it is derived entirely from renewable energy sources. 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.