BMW i5, more powerful i8 in works

BMW has admitted “five is a good number” when it comes to expanding its i car sub-brand, which also looks set to stretch to a more powerful version of the i8 supercar.

The German brand is gearing up to expand its i family of electric-powered models beyond the soon-to-go-on-sale i3 and i8.

But the expansion appears to be at least a couple of years away, with reports pointing to BMW’s centenary celebrations in 2016 as a likely year for new i-model action.

“For the near future, from our point of view it wouldn’t make sense to introduce new models,” BMW product communications manager Kai Lichte said, before giving tantalising hints about future i models.

“Five is a good number for BMW,” said Lichte. “But we really cannot say anything about this right now.”

He also confirmed engineers were looking at ways to up the power of the i8, which teams electric motors with a three-cylinder turbocharged engine to provide BMW M3/M4-beating performance.

The more powerful model could use a six-cylinder engine and be badged i9.

“Our engineers have ideas for more powerful version of the i8, but what technologies we would use for this that’s also [for the] future,” he said.

Lichte said production limitations and solid early demand for the i3 and i8 – which go on sale in Australia in November 2014 and March 2015 respectively – meant the focus was on ensuring a smooth rollout rather than rushing new i models to market.

“Our engineers have a lot of ideas for more powerful versions of the i8, but we still have accountants in the company and controllers and production limitations,” Lichte said.

The i models were developed independently of regular BMW models to ensure a clean-sheet approach was taken to the new hybrid and electric models.

The i3 and i8 have carbonfibre tubs, with BMW aiming to learn more about mass production of this difficult-to-produce lightweight material.

The i3 will be sold as a pure electric car or as a plug-in hybrid with a range-extender two-cylinder engine ($63,900 and $69,900 respectively). The i8 ($299,000) uses a plug-in hybrid system.

BMW is also expected to leverage its alliance with Toyota to develop battery and hybrid technology.

The Japanese and German giants are collaborating to develop a sports car – the Z4 in BMW’s case and a possible long-hoped replacement for the Supra for Toyota – and plan to leverage each other’s strengths to develop fuel cell systems, new-generation batteries and lightweight technologies.

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