They’ve been bubbling under for a while, but BMW has now made them official: the i3 and i8 eco-friendly cars. Both were designed from clean sheets of paper (well, blank CAD screens) to be alternative-fuel vehicles, but the good thing is that each one has some BMW-type ballsiness. The i3 four-door, four-seater, for example, has the equivalent of 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque from an electric motor (its sole form of locomotion), which is mounted over the rear axle. A zero-to-60 time of under eight seconds is kind of impressive although it seems no one has still really worked out a way of extending the range beyond 100 miles, although a high-speed charger can replenish the lithium-ion battery up to 80 percent in only an hour. The body’s upper portion is made from carbon fiber and sports front-hinged front doors and rear-hinged rear doors. BMW says this marks “the launch of the first volume-produced car featuring bodywork largely made of carbon.” The lower part—where the drivetrain, battery and suspension are housed—is aluminum. The company promises some of the driving dynamics we expect from the blue-and-white propeller badge, along with the equivalent of 87 mpg. The i3 is due out in 2013.
The sportier i8 two-plus-two is not all-electric, but a hybrid. As well as an electric motor, there’s a 220-hp three-cylinder combustion engine. BMW has so far declined to say whether that means gasoline or diesel; perhaps there could be a choice. But the car can run in electric-only mode for 20 miles, return the equivalent of 77 mpg and reach 60 mph from a standing start in less than five seconds, all while enjoying an optimum 50/50 weight distribution. Construction is again carbon fiber over aluminum and the two doors open with a Lambo-like scissor movement. The i8 is scheduled for a 2014 launch.