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BMW i reveals electric car concepts

BMW revealed a four-seater electric city car and a 2+2 plug-in hybrid performance car as the first EVs to launch under the new BMW i brand.

The BMW i8.
The BMW i8. BMW

BMW revealed two new electric car concepts that will be launched under its new i brand in Germany early this morning. The BMW i3 city car and the BMW i8 will be the auto manufacturer's first production vehicles designed from the ground up as electric or plug-in hybrids, rather than starting as an existing model and swapping the gas engine for an electric motor.

The BMW i3 is an electric vehicle designed for urban environments. Formerly called the MegaCity Vehicle, the EV is powered by a 125 kW electric motor that offers drivers an 80-mile electric driving range. The BMW i3 has a 0-60 mph time of less than eight seconds, which is on par with other electric cars on the market, and its high-speed charger achieves an 80-percent battery charge in just one hour.

To achieve high efficiency, the i3 uses BMW's LifeDrive architecture, which features a carbon passenger cell, keeping the vehicle weight down to a low 2,755 pounds. The 2+2 uses carriage doors to maximize access to the rear seats. Although the BMW i3 was originally designed as a pure EV, it will also be available with an optional range extender, the REx. The REx is a small engine that will primarily be used to charge the electric battery and extend the vehicle's range. The option is in response to findings from BMW's Mini E pilot program, which revealed that most Mini E drivers wanted the vehicle to have more range.

BMW also revealed the i8 concept. The i8 is a plug-in hybrid performance car based on the Vision EfficientDynamics concept revealed at the 2009 Frankfurt auto show. Using only the battery power and the electric motor, the 2+2 can travel about 20 miles on electric power alone before switching on its high-performance 3-liter engine.

The gull-winged sports car has a 0-60 time of less than five seconds, and is electronically limited to a top speed of 134 mph. Its battery can be fully recharged using a standard power socket in two hours. When the Vision EfficientDynamics debuted two years ago, the specs were similar and offered a total of 328 horsepower that enabled a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds, and fuel economy of 75.1 mpg.

BMW i3 will launch in 2013 and the BMW i8 will follow in 2014.