“... As we enjoy great
advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity
to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and
generously.” These words were said by Benjamin Franklin who discovered
electricity and invented many, many things. Because of this belief, Franklin
never patented his work, which is why we are able to generate electricity so
happily and so much in abundance.
Because of his discovery, we
are able to harness electricity from various forms and use them in everything
we do in our lives. From the invention of the light bulb to the invention of
the telephone, the TV and the highly advanced computer, none of it would have
been possible without Franklin’s invaluable discovery and his ideals.
Over 200 years after he had
died, the car was invented. And another 100 years later, a car cannot start
without the support of electricity. There are also some cars that run on only
electricity itself and nothing more. So imagine what he would think if he ever
saw a BMW i8. What would be going through his mind when he would see such a car?
When car manufacturers reveal
concept cars, they look all radical, the shapes and sizes look all futuristic,
beautifully designed, flamboyant, and breathtaking. They say instead of wipers
we will have a laser instead, with square wheels, have a million horsepower and
will do 0-100 in just 1 second.
Right after making these
statements, the accountants step in and say, “well, we can’t afford that” and
they end up with three squares and a couple of circles with no hint of
So when BMW unveiled the
Vision Concept and said it will do preposterous kmpl figures, we kind of did
not believe that. When BMW unveiled the production version of the car we were
all busy drooling over the styling and listening to them explain how the hybrid
car will work.
We were all expecting them to
say words like 5 litre V8 and a million horsepower, but the words they said
were a 1.5 litre turbo charged and supercharged humble 3 cylinder petrol engine
and a 355W producing Lithium-ion batteries with an electric motor and a total
combined power of 362bhp. This left us all awestruck. It’s like a 20 minute progressive rock song
with a 12 minute guitar solo may seem boring, the intricacy of the song is what
makes it so amazing to listen to.
This month, we got a hold of
the car and I took it out for a spin. In the flesh on the road, the amount of
attention it gets is just uncanny. If I was to put Miranda Kerr naked butt on
one side and the BMW i8 on the other, the car would still get more attention
from onlookers. The reason for it is that Miranda Kerr is human and the i8
looks nothing like it is from anywhere close to this planet. People expect when
the doors open they will see an alien with large green eyes, a giant head with
a weird shaped body sitting inside. And not to disappoint them, that’s exactly
what they got when they found me inside.
To drive it may look
intimidating considering the cabin complimenting the outside with similar
future like design, but it’s still quintessentially BMW and precisely German.
So it should and would seem scary and make you leave skid marks in your
trousers while it itself would leave some of its own on the tarmac. But it
isn’t like that in anyway. In city traffic, apart from the people leaving their
steering wheels and almost crashing into each other trying to get a picture of
the car, there is nothing to be scared of. There is a pin drop silence when you
start the car and it creeps up at low speeds into rearview mirrors like a
little insect. You pin the throttle and it just flies off with the instant
torque delivery from the electric motor with the loud noise and massive power
from the little engine.
Driving in the city (the
Greater Noida Expressway or some such unfettered roads), it’s extremely
confortable, even though the ground clearance is only around 4 and a half
inches. You have to be extremely careful not to damage the underbody of the car,
if you take the car anywhere else in India. But because of that tiny gap
between your bottom and the tarmac, the i8 just devours corners like an
afternoon snack. Even with the traction control off, there is just so much
confidence that you will not end up on a tree. There is just so much grip from
the tyres getting the back out is relatively difficult I would say, if you want
to have a bit of fun. You have to be at quite significant but a double digit
speed to get the back end to slide out.
When the road opens up and you
let it unleash, along with the electric power the i8 just
climbs the speedo like no other car I have driven before. It’s just so smooth
in climbing and even during shifts because the electric power just fills in the
gaps left by the ICE you don’t feel any kind of lag for a single miniscule
moment. But if you don’t have sufficient charge in the batteries, naturally it
can’t power the car, so without that, even though the car can climb the speedo
sufficiently quick, you do get a sense that it’s trying too hard. You do get a
feeling that something is missing, that that missing element is that electric
torque not exhilarating you like it should.
The combined power of the i8
with both power units is 326bhp and has a limited top speed of 250kmph. In
electric mode alone the i8 can reach all the way up to 120kmph and an
acceleration of 0-100 kmph in 4.4seconds. When you drive the i8, you get a sense that it’s
not a normal hybrid. The car doesn’t just look like it’s from the Jetsons, but
it makes you feel like you’re actually in the future.
The way the electric motor and
the petrol engine move the car around is like no other hybrid ever. It’s a calm
relaxed little electric car with a humble yet powerful engine which is just a
different being all together.
BMW claims that on electric
power and petrol combines, this car can go all the way to 440kms on a single
tank and 35kms in electric power alone. While testing in controlled
environments it can, on the real roads, it’s near impossible to achieve them.
You would have to be extremely careful to even get close to getting those
figures in real life situations.
Nonetheless, the i8 is a
brilliant piece of machinery, made by people who know what they are doing with
a clear vision on how to do it. The i8 is beautiful to look at, amazing to
drive, and probably extremely satisfying to own. But unfortunately, you can’t
buy it anymore because it’s all sold out.
So is the BMW i8 the future?
Probably not the future itself but it is the gateway, the wormhole into the
future. The technology in the i8 paves the way into the future, it’s what will
inspire the future of making cars. Whether it is electric powered from
batteries, electric powered from hydrogen, or the old greasy Internal
Combustion engine, the i8 is the stepping stone for the future. In my view, the
BMW i8 splits time in two.
So it’s exactly how it all
started in the first place, with the discovery of electricity in the 17th
century, the 21st century i8 is just a reboot of the technology.
It’s sort of like how it all began in the first place. So what would Ben
Franklin think if he ever saw what his discovery led humans to achieve? I’m
sure he would have been extremely proud and electrically charged too!
1.5L 3 cylinder BMW
TwinPower Turbo with VAVLETRONIC Supercharging
6-Speed Automatic with
231bhp @ 5800ropm
320Nm @ 3700rpm
30 litres / 42 litres
BMW eDrive technology Hybrid
system with charging module and generator mode for recuperation
131bhp @ 4800rpm
250Nm @ 0rpm
Aluminium double rack
control arm with anti-drive, separate lower level with wishbone and tie rod
Aluminium five arm geometry,
340mm Ventilated Disc
340mm Ventilated Disc with
L x W x H
4689 x 1942 x 1293 mm
Front; 195/50 R20; Rear:
Hybrid Specific AWD;
Electric motor – FWD, ICE- RWD
Price (ex-Showroom Delhi)
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