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The History and Evolution of the BMW i8

Bavarian Motor Works has been in the business of developing prestigious luxury vehicles for some time now and one model in particular deserves to be highlighted as one of their greatest accomplishments. The i8 is a member of the Project i electric fleet that made its first appearance to the world in 2009 as a concept car with a turbodiesel engine at Germany's International Motor show. Since this time it has evolved into one of the top sellers in the UK the US and Germany. Here is the story of the BMW i8 from its inception to the present.

The BMW i8 from concept through production

After the i8 model was first presented in its concept form at the International Motor Show in 2009, it would be a while before the production model would be ready to roll off of the lines. BMW is particular about achieving perfection before making a major release. In 2013, at the Frankfurt Motor Show the finalized version of the i8 made its debut and was fully ready to be released for the 2015 model year of production in 2014 and its initial release in the German market after four years of perfecting the model that would change the world forever.

Specifications for the 2014-2018 BMW i8

The 2011 Concept was an electric hybrid car which made use of a dual power system featuring a 96 kW 129 horsepower electric motor placed in the front axle along with a 1.5 liter turbochargedd 3 cylinder gas powered engine cranking 220 horses and 221 lb ft or torque. The top speed of the first generation of i8 was clocked at 155 mph with acceleration from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. The body style is a two door coupe and the design team made use of carbon fiber along with Gorilla Glass for a lighter car that weighed in at 3,284 in curb weight. The production version of the vehicle did away with the transparent doors and went with a combined electric and gas powered power train that achieved a combined total of 362 horsepower and 420 pound feet of torque.

BMW i8 2015-2016

The 2015 i8 featured keyless access as a standard feature with an aluminum chassis and swing wing doors. One of the features that made this vehicle so unique was the fact that the front wheels are powered by the electric front motor and the rear by the fuel powered engine. It was also equipped with a variety of driving modes including eDrive, Eco Pro, Sport and Comfort. This edition was heavier than the concept car coming in at 3,445 pounds versus 3,284 with the addition of adaptive suspension for a decent yet firm ride quality. The average recharge time for the i8 with the 240 volt charging system is approximately 1.5 hours to full charge. The maximum fuel efficiency when using both electric and gas power was 91 mpg for the US version and the gas only mode got 29 mpg without the aid of the electric engine. The aesthetics of the car presented clean lines and a layered look with standard LED headlights and optional laser headlights where permitted. The car was seen as the vehicle of the future with an attractive sporty exterior and the ultimate in comfort on its interior.

Evolving with the competition

When the i8 was first released it was one of the most talked about hybrid sports in the industry, but competitors kept up fairly evenly which made their accomplishments less intriguing and the buzz began to die down. The 2017 model had not kept up with competitors such as Tesla and Audi and their vehicles were performing with innovations that enhanced the range of the electric batteries and increases in power for faster acceleration. BMW had not made any changes that could answer their latest editions and although the brilliant vehicle they had created was just as good as the day it was released as a world-wide sensation, it had stayed locked into a time warp and had not advanced as quickly as the others with regards to tech advancements which might have helped. The question was asked, is the i8 still an impressive vehicle to drive? The answer was neither a straightforward yes or no, but rather, it hadn't lost any ground in performance but others were passing it by in some aspects of their development.

The 2018 BMW i8

In 2018, BMW decided that it was time for a new generation and they introduced the 2018 second generation. It was produced in a hybrid electric and gas powered system in a two door coupe version and for the first time, a roadster in the line. This production year would bring some badly needed updates for the i8 which were necessary to keep up with the bulk of the herd of new hybrid vehicles entering the world market.

What was new in 2018

BMW kept most of the exterior elements the same but there were some notable changes made that are worth mentioning. The vehicle's hybrid drive system was the winner of multiple international engine of the year awards between 2015 and 2017, and it was a far more eco-friendly alternative to the majority of the sexy sports cars on the market.

A new i8 is introduced

The introduction of the Roadster model gave consumers an additional choice which was well received and drivers liked the low center of gravity as well as the nicely balanced feel of the car thanks to its even weight distribution. This is a vehicle designed for a single or couple with its 2 seat styling. The soft top is operated with an electric open and close feature which takes a mere 15 seconds to close when a surprise rainstorm comes up.

BMW stepped up the game with a few optimizations in their in-house designed eDrive technology. They finally implemented a few alterations that resulted in an increase in the range along with more power. This was a boost when competing with the other automakers who had gained an edge in the past few years. BMW developed a new battery that upped the cell capacity to 34 Ah which is a 14 notch jump. The range was also bumped up from just 15 miles in all electric mode to more than double with 33 miles for the Roadster and 34 miles for the Coupe. They've also designed a high power charging system that moves it up from the system 2 to a 3 for high power charging in a shorter amount of time.

Other changes

The i8 Roadster bears the badges which identify the model with its name which is a nice touch from an aesthetics perspective. The i8 is also available in new paint colors including Donington Grey Metallic adn E-Copper metallic most recently added. Accents for these color choices are made in Frozen Grey metallic to maintain consistency. You can also customize your i8 with an available set of 20 inch turbine light alloy wheels, but they do come with stock 20 inch light alloys in a double spoke styling.

Interior of the 2018-19 i8

There have also been some significant changes made to the interior of the i8. Now a sports steering wheel and new instrument display are standard in both the Coupe and the Roadster editions. The upholstery is leather and available in an Ivory and black color scheme for the Roadster and an Ivory for the Coupe. If you want to upgrade the interior trim you do have the option of going with their Halo trim which combines leather and cloth in the Carum Dalbergia colorway. The navigation system professional is a standard feature equipped with a touch controller and a display screen of 8.8 inches with a main menu which is easy to read and serves as less of a distraction. You also have the option of upgrading to a Harman Kardon speaker system.

Driver assistance and safety systems

Standard equipment for both versions of the 2019 BMW i8 are cruise control and the brand's driving assistant. The driving assistant also comes with a surround view feature to increase safety while driving and give the driver a comprehensive view of the environment. There are also pedestrian and collision warnings built into the system with a city braking function along with sensors that aid in parking so you'll know where both the rear and the front of the vehicle are at all times. The laser headlights are also a nice touch for the coupe with full LEDs on the Roadster model.


The 2019 BMW i8 comes with standard ConnectedDrive service to provide drivers with information about traffic in real time as well as parking information and concierge services available. The Teleservices complements of BMW functions via a SIM card to make emergency calls in case an accident occurs and it even features an automatic locating system along with a calculation of the severity of the accident. Optional online entertainment services with internet access is available to keep you connected for use with smartwatches and smartphones for checking the status of the car.

The 2019 i8 Roadster went on sale late in 2019 for a base price of $164,295. It's one of the more expensive hybrids on the market today and this is a part of the challenge that BMW is currently facing. There have been some improvements in the technology yet the car still has a top speed of 155 mph and the acceleration rate remains the same at 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. The i8 was considered to be the car of the future because it seemed to hit the ground running with its hybrid capabilities that provided a more eco-friendly approach for sports car enthusiasts. The smart styling of the exterior gives you the feeling of a truly exotic car and that's precisely what it still is today. It hasn't changed much from its original brilliance as a beautiful car that is luxurious inside and out and fun to drive. It sips fuel gently and it has so much to offer on the upside of things.

Final Thoughts

By saying that it hasn't changed much, the evolution of the vehicle has not kept up with the times. If Tesla and other innovative car makers were not on the scene, you'd hear a lot more buzz about the high priced BMW i8 for certain. Part of the problem is that it hasn't changed much and others are passing it by with more affordable versions of eco friendly hybrids with a lot to offer a public that is ready to save at the gas pump. It's an expensive vehicle for certain but it's still a magnificent machine whether your preference is the coupe or the Roadster. The one thing that keeps the i-8 relevant is the fact that it has a certain charm and posturing that the others do not provide. It may be a bit low on the tech aspects and perhaps the technology is not as innovative as the others. For some, it is worth the extra cost because the i-8 is still valued by the purists who appreciate the beauty and performance of the vehicle with the prestige of ownership.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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