Forget congestion charges and some road tax, but watch where you park, this car has wings. Euan Johns dispenses with the hair shirt and enjoys the environmentally–friendly BMW i8 Roadster.
From concept to completion, BMW’s jaw-dropping i8 hybrid coupe supercar set a new standard in its class when it appeared over four years ago. Quite simply, it stood out from the pack, combining potent performance whilst giving the earth a big hug at the same time. It had its faults (haven’t we all), but these have been ironed out to a large extent in the new coupe version and there is now a roadster too.
Jonathon Porritt, the environmentalist, published a book entitled The World We Made some five years ago. The book works back from a futuristic 2050 through the eyes of imaginary professor Alex McKay to the present. It optimistically painted a picture of how we go from today’s environmental issues to a better future using current technology.
As we know, problems persist and some are getting worse (think the p word), but the future comes closer with another mesmerising car that cocks a snook at the doom-mongers. The BMW i8 Roadster is a wonderful example of what life can be like: exciting, good looking and all without increasing the hole in the ozone layer. Like Porritt’s book, the future looks bright and BMW seem to have lassoed the spirit and technology and are racing towards it.
A general word about electric cars for those of us who still think it’s something for the geeks. There are now over three million electric vehicles worldwide and over 120,000 in the UK. Major manufacturers are making serious commitments and the UK government provides useful incentives to go electric. Batteries are far better and motorway driving is now on the route planner, although it will use more electricity. As a general rule, London has the most charging points, and it’s true to say that the UK’s infrastructure is in its infancy. Aids such as Zap Map help drivers see where charging points are located, but there’s no guarantee they will be free on arrival. BMW offers the ChargeNow card which opens up an array of over 5,500 charging points. Anyway, it’s not beyond the wit of man or woman to work out a strategy, and with cars like the Roadster you’ll want to go electric, believe me.
Now, back to the Roadster. Supercars are meant to be wild, powerful beasts and whilst the i8 isn’t quite in the Pete Townshend bracket, it does more than most to trigger the testosterone. Any (perceived) deficiencies are made up by its outlandish good looks, coupled with show-stopping doors. The Roadster is not that much different from the coupe, but offers the option of getting some wind through the hair. Truth is, it’s not been transformed into a 911 Porsche, but driving is much improved from the original coupe. The steering has more feel, the brakes more intuitive and the shift from energy regeneration to braking is smooth.
The EV-only mode is another side to this car’s persona, ensuring it will happily drive at 75mph with a range of 33 miles. In electric mode, the i8 is still serene, the ride quiet and supple. This makes it a very effective town car.
Obviously, the real consumption of the BMW i8 depends entirely on personal patterns of usage. Due to the electrical drive components, individual driving behaviour has a higher influence on petrol consumption than is the case in conventional vehicles. With a fully charged battery, the maximum purely electrical range of 33 miles can be fully utilised. If the eDrive button is activated, a purely electrical speed of up to 75mph is possible – twice as fast as before. In the driving modes Comfort and Eco Pro, the petrol engine is automatically switched on by an intelligent operating strategy, and also for recharging the battery. In Sport mode, the petrol engine is running continuously. Depending on the type of driving and length of route, the more often the high-voltage battery is charged by cable or Wallbox, the more the car can be driven purely electrically, reducing overall consumption. Using the BMW Wallbox cuts charging time from over four hours to under three.
Environmentally-friendly practices are a main focus of the BMW i Series. Most of the aluminum used is obtained from recycling or created using a renewable energy source. The interior accent strips, door trim, roof liner, floor mats, body pillar trim and floor covering are all made of textiles derived from recycled materials.
The BMW i8 Roadster still looks as if it came out of science fiction and has a price tag from £124,730. There can be no denying the appeal and feelgood factor. Oh, and the butterfly effect is great for making an entrance, but be careful whilst parking at Waitrose as if you’re not careful you’ll provide any audience with an after-dinner anecdote.
essence infoWebsite: www.bmw.com