All-Electric Innovation: BMW i8 Powertrain

In an age when electrons dance with the same energy as pistons, the automotive world is being treated to a veritable smorgasbord of electrifying performance. But as we indulge in this high-voltage feast, it’s crucial to remember the car that paved the way for BMW’s electric future: the i8.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your capacitors and buckle up, because we’re about to dive headfirst into the heart of this carbon-fiber masterpiece for an intimate rendezvous with its revolutionary powertrain. Welcome to “The Power Plant,” where we dissect the most intriguing automotive powerhouses, and today we’re dissecting the i8 with the scalpel-sharp wit of yours truly, Georg Meier.

The BMW i8 isn’t just a head-turning, jaw-dropping work of art; it’s a technological marvel that redefines the concept of performance motoring. By marrying a turbocharged three-cylinder engine with a potent electric motor, the i8 created a symphony of sustainable speed that echoes through the halls of history. But how does this dance of combustion and conduction play out under the hood? It’s time to take a closer look at this all-electric innovation that set the stage for BMW’s zero-emission future.

In this electrifying installment of “The Power Plant,” we’ll peel back the layers of the i8’s plug-in hybrid powertrain to expose the inner workings of its electrified soul. We’ll explore how this futuristic fusion of electrons and hydrocarbons delivers a driving experience that’s as thrilling as it is efficient. And, we’ll examine the role the i8 has played in shaping the future of the Bavarian automaker’s green revolution.

So, charge up your enthusiasm and let’s get ready to savor the flavors of this all-electric innovation that is the BMW i8 Powertrain. Because, as we’re about to discover, this is no ordinary power plant — it’s a groundbreaking symphony of electrified performance that promises to change the automotive landscape forever.

The i8’s Powertrain Components

Nestled behind the passenger compartment lies the heart of the i8’s combustion power: a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-three engine. Punching well above its weight, this small but mighty engine churns out an impressive 228 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology, the engine is both efficient and responsive, providing a remarkable specific output of 152 hp per liter.

BMW i8 powertrain components. BMW Group

The turbocharged three-cylinder engine is more than just a power provider; it’s also a key component in the i8’s quest for efficiency. The compact engine achieves high thermal efficiency and reduced internal friction, resulting in a combined fuel consumption of around 76 MPGe when working in tandem with the electric motor.

BMW i8 front electric motor. BMW Group

Complementing the combustion engine is a 129-horsepower electric motor, which draws its energy from a lithium-ion battery pack. The electric motor provides instantaneous torque, filling in the gaps in power delivery from the turbocharged engine. This setup results in a total system output of 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, transforming the i8 into a true performance machine.

BMW i8 rear engine (B38). BMW Group

Energy Recuperation and On-Demand Power

The i8’s electric motor plays a vital role in harnessing energy that would otherwise be lost. Through regenerative braking, kinetic energy is captured and converted into electricity, which is then stored in the battery pack for later use. This recuperated energy can be deployed for additional acceleration or to improve overall efficiency, depending on the selected driving mode.

The i8’s lithium-ion battery pack boasts a capacity of 11.6 kWh, providing an all-electric range of up to 18 miles. Charging options are versatile, with the ability to charge using a standard 120V outlet, a 240V Level 2 charger, or even public charging stations. Depending on the charging method, a full charge can be achieved in as little as 2.5 hours.

With its combined power sources, the i8 offers a total range of approximately 330 miles. The all-electric mode provides a zero-emission driving experience in urban environments, while the hybrid mode maximizes efficiency during longer journeys. By blending the best of both worlds, the i8 stands as a shining example of what a performance-oriented plug-in hybrid can achieve.

Integration and Performance

One of the i8’s most remarkable achievements is the seamless integration of its combustion engine and electric motor. The car intelligently distributes power between the front and rear axles, creating a performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system. The electric motor drives the front wheels, while the combustion engine sends power to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. This setup allows for precise torque vectoring and optimal power delivery, ensuring maximum traction and stability in a variety of driving conditions.

Driving Modes and Their Impact on Performance
The i8 features multiple driving modes that cater to different performance and efficiency preferences. In eDrive mode, the car relies solely on electric power for emissions-free urban driving.

BMW i8 driving experience switch. BMW Group

Comfort mode balances performance and efficiency for everyday use, while Sport mode unleashes the i8’s full performance potential, combining both power sources for maximum acceleration and agility. Finally, the Eco Pro mode optimizes energy consumption, allowing the driver to extract the most efficiency from the i8’s powertrain.

With its innovative powertrain, the i8 delivers exceptional performance that rivals traditional sports cars. The combined output of 357 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque allows the i8 to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. Its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, showcasing the i8’s ability to perform at high speeds while maintaining impressive efficiency.

BMW i8 front view. BMW Group

The i8’s lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) chassis and low center of gravity contribute to its exceptional handling characteristics. The car’s suspension is finely tuned to provide a perfect balance between comfort and agility, allowing the i8 to easily tackle twisty backroads. The advanced powertrain, combined with the car’s superb handling, creates a driving experience that is both exhilarating and environmentally responsible.

The i8’s plug-in hybrid powertrain enables it to achieve a remarkable combined fuel economy of around 76 MPGe, making it one of the most efficient sports cars on the market. Furthermore, the i8 boasts low CO2 emissions of just 59 g/km (NEDC), demonstrating BMW’s commitment to creating high-performance vehicles that are also environmentally conscious.

The role of regenerative braking
Regenerative braking plays a crucial role in the i8’s efficiency. By capturing energy typically lost during braking, the i8 is able to recharge its battery pack and extend its overall range. This innovative technology helps to minimize energy waste and reduce emissions, contributing to the i8’s status as a pioneer in sustainable performance.

The i8 as a Pioneering Influence

The i8’s advanced carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) chassis and extensive use of lightweight materials have had a significant impact on the development of future BMW models. The lessons learned from the i8’s construction have inspired BMW to explore weight-saving technologies further and incorporate them into upcoming models, enhancing performance and efficiency across the lineup.

BMW i8. BMW Group

Electric drivetrain advancements
As an early adopter of electric vehicle technology, the i8 has served as a valuable testbed for BMW’s future electric drivetrains. The plug-in hybrid system employed in the i8 has been refined and adapted for use in other BMW i models, leading to greater efficiency and improved electric range. The i8’s powertrain technologies have also influenced the development of fully electric models, such as the i4 and iX, pushing BMW’s electric ambitions forward.

BMW i8 top view. BMW Group

The i8 has played a pivotal role in shaping BMW’s electrification strategy. As a halo car for the BMW i sub-brand, the i8 has showcased the potential of combining performance and efficiency through electrification. Its success has led to the expansion of the BMW i lineup, which now includes a range of plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles designed to cater to various market segments and customer preferences.

The i8 has demonstrated that electrification is not a compromise but an enhancement to performance. This philosophy has influenced the development of BMW’s M Division, which has begun to incorporate hybrid and electric powertrains into its high-performance models. As a result, future M vehicles will benefit from increased power, torque, and efficiency, continuing BMW’s tradition of creating exhilarating driving machines while embracing a more sustainable future.

In Conclusion

The i8 has left an indelible mark on the automotive landscape as a pioneer of all-electric innovation. Its groundbreaking powertrain, exceptional performance, and commitment to sustainability have inspired a new generation of electrified vehicles, both within BMW and across the industry.

BMW i8. BMW Group

As the world moves towards electrification, the advancements made by the i8 will continue to shape the future of performance and efficiency. By demonstrating that electrified vehicles can deliver exhilarating driving experiences without sacrificing sustainability, the i8 has carved out a lasting legacy as a trailblazer for the automotive world.

Georg Meier

BMW technician since 1996, began his automotive journey in 1993 as an apprentice mechanic at Automag, the world's oldest BMW dealership located in Munich. With years of experience and dedication under his belt, Georg has garnered a wealth of knowledge about the intricacies of BMW vehicles. His profound love for the brand led him to found BIMMERIST website, where he now shares his expertise and insights with fellow enthusiasts.

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