This month, we will be discussing some of the technology in one of BMW’s most exciting vehicles: the BMW i8. The i8 has a unique drivetrain, that is, the system consisting of the engine, transmission, drive axles and components that connect them. The i8 has an innovative drive concept because it combines two high-performance drives in one car. The rear axle of the vehicle is driven by a 3-cylinder 228 horsepower gas engine connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. While the front axle is driven by a 129-horsepower electrical machine combined with a 2-speed electronically controlled manual transmission. Due to the intelligent interaction of the drives, the BMW i8 has the performance of a sports car with the efficiency of a compact car. This provides the practicality of everyday use without giving up the style or feel of a sports car.
The i8 has completely variable four wheel drive: the drive torque can be distributed 100% between the front axle and rear axle. The distribution can also be oriented to the vehicle performance and consumption. For example, purely electric driving using the front axle is one possibility.
The supporting body structure of the car which houses the driver and passenger is referred to as the drive module. The drive module sits on top of the chassis, or frame and suspension. The high-voltage battery is placed between the drive module and chassis sections. The benefit of this design is the i8’s center of gravity is kept low and weight distribution is optimally distributed to a near 50/50 distribution front to rear.
Another aspect of this car that makes it even more interesting is the use of carbon fibers and aluminum in the body. The i8 uses several structural components made of carbon, others of aluminum and others of steel. Combining all materials in the right different areas allows for maximum impact absorption and weight savings. For example, the doors (which open vertically) are fully aluminum, yet have an inside carbon structure that is bonded together allowing the protection of carbon fiber and the design flexibility and weight savings of aluminum.
The design of the BMW i8 at first glance screams innovation with truly unique body angles. However, the bigger statement with the innovative technology in the i8 is a true supercar that also keeps a driver’s realistic and practical needs at the forefront and our needs as a society of an energy conscious and efficient future at its core.