BMW i8 Roadster: a Hybrid Roadster Review

BMW i8 Hybrid electric review by Fred Lambert:

The BMW i8 has been some kind of a black sheep in the German automaker ‘i’ brand. When BMW launched the i3, we thought that they would make ‘BMW i’ an all-electric brand, but they instead followed up with the BMW i8 as a plug-in hybrid.

It was disappointing, but to be fair to BMW, it is still the “most electric” roadster/coupé on the market years later and they give it an upgrade this year with a little more battery capacity and a convertible version.

So we decided to give it a shot. Here’s our review:BMW i8 Roadster Design

I’m told it’s a polarizing design. Some hate it and some love it.

I certainly fall under the second category.

The car looks stunning to me. I wasn’t completely on board with the original BMW i8 as I thought that it featured too many “electric design accents”, like the BMW i3, but I think they have smoothed some of those out over the last few small design updates and it’s much easier to get on board with the design.

BMW have also made some improvements specific to the i8 roadster version, which I think looks even better than the coupé.

BMW loaned us one in ‘e copper’ for our review and I don’t remember ever seeing a vehicle with that specific color. I don’t hate it.

Here’s our video review of the BMW i8 Roadster with some great shots by our videographer Scott Buscemi for you to get a good idea of the design:

BMW i8 Roadster Driving Experience

I had a ton of fun driving the BMW i8 Roadster. It’s a perfect car for a relaxing weekend drive or to have some fun on winding roads.

And speaking of winding roads, we took full advantage of the canyon roads around Malibu, where it was a blast to drive.

The car handles well and feels comfortable even with some aggressive steering, but it also feels a little underpowered for a sports car.

In my opinion, BMW wasn’t able to take advantage of the benefits of an electric powertrain – especially when it comes to the instant torque.

You can feel the lag of the gas engine when pressing on the accelerator for any kind of relatively aggressive acceleration. That’s understandable with only a 105 kW/143 hp electric motor and a small 3-cylinder engine, but it’s not what you’d expect from a car that looks like that.

Performance aside, it’s just great to pull the top down a drive around in the BMW i8 Roadster.

BMW i8 Roadster Range, Efficiency, and Charging

At 69 MPGe, the BMW i8 is certainly efficient for a sports car – but not very efficient for an electric car.

With the release of the new Roadster version, BMW updated the i8’s powertrain with a larger battery (11.6 kWh, up from 7 kWh).

It makes a decent difference.

At the launch, they were claiming a range of 33 miles (53 km) with this new battery pack, which feeds a 105 kW/143 hp electric motor driving the front wheels while a three-cylinder petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo powers the rear wheels for an all-wheel-drive system.

The actual EPA range is only 17 miles and the system of the car that we tested was showing 22 miles on a full charge.

That’s not bad on paper.

Technically, many people could do their commute only on electric power, especially if they have a charger at work (the BMW i8 only has a 7 kW onboard charger but’s enough when you have a ~12 kWh battery pack). However, the problem is that the gas engine often kicks in during hard acceleration.

Therefore, it’s really hard to drive the BMW i8 on electric power only, unless you want to drive like your grandma.

Nonetheless, we are only talking about going into “electric assist” mode for short periods of time.

If you drive the car mostly in bursts of ~20 miles, which believe it or not is how most people drive on a day-to-day basis, and charge in between drives, you can potentially go months on a single tank of gas.

That said, I can’t help but to think: why not go all-electric?

BMW i8 Roadster Conclusion

And that’s the main takeaway I had from driving the BMW i8: make it all-electric. It would be a perfect car to be all-electric.

To be fair to BMW, it’s the most electric sports car you can buy right now. You have to give them that.

There are several EVs available today that have sports car performance, but they don’t really look like sports cars. The BMW i8 certainly looks the part.

Some are coming, but BMW has had the lead here for years.

My main problem here is that it seems that making the i8 all-electric would only make it better. The car was only showing a range of around 200 miles with a full tank of gas. EPA actually says a full range of 320 miles.

If range was the concern for them when deciding to make the i8 a plug-in hybrid, it makes no sense because you would have been able to get a longer range with something like an 80 kWh battery pack.

On top of the range, it would have supplied more power to the front electric motor and you could replace the gas engine with a second electric motor.

I don’t want to take anything away from the BMW engineers because it’s truly an impressive powertrain that they built, but look at how complex it is:

I can’t help but to think that it would have been better to make a more dual motor platform with a larger battery pack.

Cost shouldn’t be too much of an issue either. The vehicle starts at around $150,000 – with the Roadster version coming at a $15,000 premium.

I think that the price would be more justifiable if it came with an all-electric powertrain, which would undoubtedly result in higher performance.

There have been talks about BMW possibly killing the i3 and i8 programs ahead of their new generation of EVs.

I really don’t want them to kill the BMW i8. It’s too cool of a car for that. I just want them to make it all-electric.

This article was originally posted on https://electrek.co by Fred Lambert

All Electric Swedish Super Cars The New Formula 1

As reported on https://electrek.co, Supercar maker Koenigsegg announced that it is taking a $170 million investment from NEVS, SAAB’s all-electric successor, and the company says that they will use the money to ramp up their electrification effort.

The two Swedish companies were already collaborating, but this latest move deepens their ties.

With a EUR 150 million (~$171 million USD) investment, NEVS is taking a 20 percent minority stake in Koenigsegg’s parent company and they are also setting up “a joint venture to expand into new market segments where NEVS AB is contributing USD 150 million in starting capital for a 65 percent stake and Koenigsegg obtains 35 percent by contributing primarily with intellectual property, technology licenses, and product design.”

Koenigsegg says that it will enable them to develop “parallel vehicle models in slightly higher volumes with emphasis on electrification.”

Christian von Koenigsegg, Founder and CEO of Koenigsegg, commented on the announcement:

“Koenigsegg is breaking new ground, capitalising on our unique technology, performance track record and market position to explore and develop new products. This partnership will create the best conditions for Koenigsegg to accelerate growth in the hyper car market, as well as enabling us to break ground into an untapped market segment together with NEVS. We very much look forward to working together with NEVS to develop products that ensure a sustainable future.”

The CEO of the world-famous supercar maker recently said that the new Tesla Roadster is ’embarrassing’ them and it is pushing them to look more into all-electric vehicles.

The company has previously incorporated hybrid electric powertrains into its vehicles, but they have yet to go all-electric.

Kai Johan Jiang, Chairman of the Board of Directors at NEVS AB, also commented on the new partnership:

“Koenigsegg is an enticing company developing advanced cars with unique technology and with a customer base that is one of a kind. To be able to expand our investment in the Swedish automotive industry through a company that we know and have an established relationship with, is an important step for us. We have both competencies and facilities to support Koenigsegg on their journey forward, something we look very much forward to”,

NEVS’ investment in Koenigsegg comes after they secured $2 billion in funding from China’s Evergrande Group, best known in the EV community for having taken a large stake in Faraday Future.

Porsche All Electric Vehicles Very Sexy!

Porsche today announced a deal with Electrify America, VW’s EV charging network born out of the Deiselgate settlement with the U.S. government, to provide upcoming Taycan owners with “three years of charging at Electrify America public stations across the country.”

It’s an interesting development because Porsche was talking about addressing the charging problem by building its own network of charging stations ahead of the launch of the Taycan.

Last year, the company announced plans to deploy hundreds of stations capable of delivering high charge rates. That includes a recently announced network of 500 EV charging stations in the US and Canada.

It was supposed to be a mix of high-powered stations to support the Taycan’s 350 kW charge rate installed at both dealerships and strategic locations along highways to enable long-distance travel.

Later, they even ramped up the effort to 700 stations across North America.

But now, following this deal with Electrify America, Porsche is only talking about installing 191 charging stations at its dealerships:

“To further expand power options, all 191 U.S. Porsche dealerships will install DC fast charging. More than 120 of these dealerships will feature Porsche Turbo Charging, which is the automaker’s own DC system that delivers up to 320 kW and also uses the CCS plug. The remaining dealerships will install 50 kW fast chargers.”

We asked Porsche if they abandoned their plan to have their own charging network outside of dealerships following this deal with Electrify America and we will update if we get an answer.

Update: Porsche confirmed that their own network will only be at dealerships.

Klaus Zellmer, President and CEO of Porsche North America, commented on the Electrify America deal:

“Every Porsche is a sports car with soul, and the Taycan is soul electrified. Together, Electrify America and our Porsche dealer network will provide a national infrastructure for DC fast charging that frees future Taycan owners from range anxiety. And Porsche home charging technology will turn the customer’s garage into the equivalent of a personal gas station.”

By the time the Taycan hits the market, Electrify America claims that it will have 484 locations with more than 2,000 chargers.

Electrek’s Take

That’s actually disappointing. It feels like a step back from having their own network.

Porsche’s previous plans felt like the most significant effort in fast-charging from an automaker since Tesla’s Supercharger network.

Instead, they are going to rely on a third-party network.

Though it happens that the third-party network is owned by their parent company.

What it shows really is that CARB and the EPA forcing Volkswagen to spend their settlement money on Electrify America is not really a “punishment” for Dieselgate. They are just using it for their own charging network.

Harley-Davidson unveils Livewire specs and prices, shows off 3 new urban electric motorbikes

I’m so impressed with the advent of the electric motorcycle I just had to share. It’s amazing to me how fast these are coming to market and how this traditional motorcycle maker is diversifying their product offering to be a part of the future economy of ours where electric transportation is one of it’s pillars.

Harley-Davidson has been teasing its electric motorcycle LiveWire for over four years, and just recently announced plans for an expanded portfolio of electric motorbikes. Today they delivered on the first step of their promises in a big way.

The company is showing off not only the previously unveiled LiveWire electric motorcycle, but also two new electric two-wheelers at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. On top of the dramatic unveiling, Harley-Davidson has unveiled more specs regarding the LiveWire including the retail price and opened up pre-orders, with deliveries planned for this fall.

 

Harley-Davidson LiveWire specs revealed and pre-orders open

Harley-Davidson promised us an electric motorcycle in 2019 and it looks like they are ready to stand by their word.

The LiveWire electric motorcycle is now available for pre-order at H-D.com/LiveWire.

Prepare yourself, the retail price of the newest American-made electric motorcycle has been set at $29,799.

Details about the mechanical tech specs of the LiveWire have been slowly dripping out for months. These include high quality Brembo brakes, fully adjustable Showa suspension, Michelin sport tires, cornering-enhanced anti-lock brakes, traction control, etc. It’s a premium bike for a premium customer. Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson has been much more tight-lipped about the electrical specs.

Today though they lifted the curtain just a bit to reveal the LiveWire’s estimated all-electric range: approximately 110 miles (177 km) of mixed city/highway riding. I did my best to work the kWh size of the battery out of Paul James, the Director of Motorcycle Planning at Harley-Davidson and one of only a select few to have any substantial saddle time on the bike, but he was admirably cagey. Paul indicated that the battery capacity and exact motor power might still undergo small changes before production, so the final numbers haven’t been revealed yet.

To get an indication, the closest comparable electric motorcycle on the market is probably the Zero SR. The SR offers a 120 mile (193 km) mixed city/highway range with a 14.4 kWh pack. Thus the low to mid-teens could be a possible kWh rating for the LiveWire considering it is likely a slightly heavier bike.

The LiveWire sports a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds – a bit quicker than a Zero SR as well. The Zero SR features a 52 kW motor, so the LiveWire may be packing a little more power between your knees. And remember that this is a twist-and-go electric motorcycle without a clutch or gears. That torque is always there and instantly available whenever you open the throttle.

Another feature Harley-Davidson is keen to demonstrate is the highly connected nature of the bike. The company developed a suite of connected services enabled by an LTE-connected Telematics Control Unit hidden under the bike’s seat. The unit enables a rider’s smartphone to access everything from remote status checks, battery charging status and time to completion, trip planning, theft or vandalism notification, GPS tracking, service reminders, diagnostics and more.

According to the company:

“This technology makes the LiveWire motorcycle the first North American mass-market cellular-connected electric motorcycle.”

Harley-Davidson is also in the process of preparing their dealerships for the new electric motorcycle. The company plans to have at least one dealership in all 50 states carrying the LiveWire, and more in large metropolitan areas. In order for dealers to carry the LiveWire, they must meet a list of requirements including most importantly installing DC fast charging on-site and maintaining a dedicated staff of LiveWire sales reps.

Harley-Davidson received such an enthusiastic response from dealers regarding the LiveWire that they are still in the process of narrowing down options and deciding which dealerships will get the new electric motorcycles.

If you had any doubt about Harley-Davidson’s commitment to bring an electric motorcycle to market, it should be pretty much crushed by now. The company said 2019 would be the year, and so far they have started off the year strong.

As Harley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich reaffirmed:

“We’re at a historic juncture of the evolution of transportation, and Harley-Davidson is at the forefront. Innovation that moves the body and soul has always been at the heart of our brand, and this next chapter in our history is about creating products and opportunities for existing and aspiring riders of all ages and walks of life.”

Harley-Davidson unveils two new electric motorbike prototypes

On any other day, the LiveWire’s new specs and beginning of pre-sales would be the biggest story here, but Harley-Davidson may have upstaged themselves with the unveiling of two new bikes.

As part of the More Roads to Harley-Davidson plan unveiled last summer, the company showed off concept art for four new electric vehicles including a lightweight electric motorcycle, an electric moped, an electric dirt bike and an electric bicycle.

Today Harley-Davidson unveiled prototypes for two of the four: the dirt bike and the moped.

These are just prototypes, mind you, so the specs are sparse and they don’t even have names yet. So far they appear to be referred to internally as the HD Electric Concept 1 (dirt bike) and HD Electric Concept 2 (scooter).

Just looking at the vehicles reveals a number of clues. The dirt bike is outfitted with large 3-4″ off-road tires, an inverted front suspension fork, rear hydraulic reservoir suspension, a low-slung motor case that appears to perform double duty as a structural frame member, belt drive and a seat that says to me “you’ll be standing on the pegs most of the time”.

The frame mounted battery sports a grab handle on top which seems to imply removability. That would allow for quick swaps at the track or in the field to increase riding time.

Large gauge battery wires could hint at some serious power levels, or could just be thick insulation. It’s too early to tell on that front.

The dirt bike could have the market nearly cornered in the US after the recent shuttering of Alta Motors, the only other US-based electric dirt bike manufacturer.

As exciting as the dirt bike is, the scooter is particularly interesting and further demonstrates Harley-Davidson’s intentions of entering the urban electric mobility market. With a mini-bike frame resembling other e-bikes and scooters such as those by Lithium Cycles and Juiced’s Scramblers, it appears to offer Vespa-scooter utility without the chic European styling of Vespa-esque scooters.

Again, no specs have been provided, but we can speculate from looking at the vehicles. On the scooter I see another inverted suspension fork, but no discernible rear suspension. A lack of rear suspension would make for a somewhat bumpier ride, though it would significantly reduce the price. And those giant street tires would absorb a large portion of road shock as well.

The motor isn’t visible but we can see a massive rear pulley and belt drive, indicating that the torque on this thing could be pretty impressive.

Lights include an impressive looking front LED halo headlight and a rear LED bar tail light. No turn signals are visible.

Oddly, only a front disc brake is visible, presumably leaving the rear with regenerative braking actuated by the same brake lever. That would rule out independent brake control – an interesting choice for a two-wheeled vehicle.

The battery also sports a handle, indicating a large and removable battery pack. That is becoming a standard feature on nearly all new electric scooters and mopeds. A removable battery allows those without a private garage or other charging facility at home to leave their bike outside and charge the battery indoors. It also allows owners to charge indoors during cold weather spells, which is better for battery life.

The running boards on Harley-Davidson’s scooter concept are perhaps the most striking, and appear to be just a skateboard deck cut in half and bolted to the side. They seem to betray the otherwise sleek design of the vehicle. But again, this is just a prototype.

Jennifer Hoyer from Harley-Davidson’s Media Relations described in an email to Electrek who these new electric prototypes are targeting:

“Both electric concepts provide enhanced attainability for customers around the world. These premium entry level concepts widen accessibility both for new audiences, and the traditional Harley-Davidson customer. Our goal for these concepts is to not require a motorcycle license to operate and feature clutch-free operation, lowering the learning curve and increasing access to attract new riders in the process. With an intended light weight target for each concept, agility and maneuverability are at the core of their riding experience and ease of use.”

That last clue regarding a lack of motorcycle license likely reveals a bit more about the vehicles. The dirt bike might not be street legal and the scooter could be limited to 30 mph which would make it a “moped class” vehicle not requiring a separate motorcycle license in many US states and countries.

All three vehicles are currently on display at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 in Las Vegas. For the lucky few that get a chance to see them in the flesh, you surely won’t be disappointed.

Electrek’s Take

I’m really excited. Seeing the Harley-Davidson LiveWire begin sales and learning more electric specs is great, and the unveiling of two new prototypes is like a cherry on top of this exciting announcement.

I’m continuously impressed by the commitment Harley-Davidson is showing to incorporating electric vehicles into their lineup. The concepts are likely still at least a couple of years away from commercial availability, but they show that Harley-Davidson is intent on charging forward into the brave new world of EVs.

Let’s talk about the LiveWire first. A range of 110 miles means that while you can take it out for a pleasure cruise on winding back country roads, it’s going to more at home as an urban bike.

And yea, it’s also expensive. Like, really expensive.

$30k is a lot for any vehicle, let alone a motorcycle. But remember that this is likely to be a lower volume production run, so there is some scarcity at play here. It’s also a premium motorcycle with premium components. Lastly, you’re of course paying for that bar and shield logo as well.

I just hope there are enough people willing to fork over the cash for this unique electric motorcycle. Without strong demand, it will be hard to convince Harley-Davidson’s execs to keep moving forward with the four other electric motorbikes in their portfolio.

But any way you slice it, this is a premium early adopter’s electric motorcycle. It’s meant for someone who would ride a Zero, but wants something a bit more special and can afford to pay for its unique-factor.

I asked Harley-Davidson’s VP of Product Portfolio Marc McAllister about who he sees as the intended market. While Harley-Davidson would love to see some of their existing base become interested in the LiveWire, and indeed some have, Marc sees the bike’s market largely as a new group of riders who never before considered buying a Harley.

I think that’s exactly who this bike is for – a new breed of Harley riders. And it’s that new market that could be what saves Harley-Davidson and helps it return to its once epic sales record.

The two new prototypes are perhaps even more intriguing for me because they are such a stark contrast to what Harley-Davidson does. With the death of Alta Motors, there’s a void in the market for electric dirt bikes. It’ll be great to see what Harley’s attempt brings and I’m on the edge of my seat awaiting tech specs.

And the scooter? Wow, talk about a new direction for Harley-Davidson. I can see why they didn’t start with this one, but if the LiveWire does well then I can see a market for it. There are other likely cheaper options for electric scooters in the US, but none will have Harley’s pedigree. I’ve long advocated for electric scooters and mopeds as perfect urban commuter vehicles, so seeing a new offering from Harley-Davidson is a very exciting prospect.

What do you think of all of these new announcements coming from Harley-Davidson? Let us know in the comments below. And check out the following video to see my own analysis of Harley-Davidson’s new EVs.

Honda delays its fun retro-looking all-electric vehicle to 2020

Honda’s first next-gen all-electric vehicle was supposed to go on sale this year, but the production has been pushed to “early 2020” and we might have to temper our expectations when it comes to availability, according to a new rep.

Back in 2017, Honda Motor Co. President and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, unveiled the “Urban EV Concept”, a small retro-looking all-electric vehicle, and said during his speech:

“This is not some vision of the distant future; a production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019,”

Now Auto News Europe reports that it will actually go on sale next year.

Interestingly, the report claims that Honda is planning to show two iterations of the vehicle before starting production.

They say that the Japanese automaker plans to unveil a new version of the concept at the Geneva auto show in March and then the production version at the Frankfurt show.

Here’s the original concept vehicle that Honda unveiled in Frankfurt back in 2017:

The report also states that Honda is only planning to sell about 5,000 units per year in Europe, which could mean that they are aiming for the vehicle to only be a compliance car – like the electric version of the Clarity.

Honda has been taking a more tentative approach to electrification by focusing more on hybrid vehicles than fully electric ones.

The Japenese automaker also unveiled an all-electric sports car concept based on the new electric platform and with a similar design language as the retro-looking urban, but it didn’t announce any official plan to bring the vehicle to production.

Nonetheless, Honda is reportedly still interested in all-electric vehicles.

Last year, GM and Honda announced that they are partnering to build next-gen batteries for electric vehicles and the automaker is reportedly working on an affordable all-electric Fit-based car with China’s biggest battery maker.