BMW Unveils i8 Roadster, and Kicks Off "Born Electric"

By · November 14, 2012

BMW i8 Roadster

The BMW i8 Roadster looked even better in the metal. (Jim Motavalli photo)

“You are the first people in North America to see the BMW i8 Roadster concept,” said Ludwig Willisch, president and CEO of BMW North America. At least that’s what I think he said. It was a typical packed Manhattan party Monday night, and extremely noisy.

Born Electric!

This was the debut of the BMW I “Born Electric” world tour, which also includes a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon on “how mobility changes us.” From the beginning, BMW has presented its i brand (the exotic i8 plug-in hybrid and the i3 megacity vehicle, both with carbon fiber structures) as not just cars, but as linchpins in a grander urban mobility strategy. Battery electrics obviously make sense for cities, because range isn’t an issue, though charging can be a challenge.

The i8 Roadster (the name “Spyder” has also been used, but there are legal issues) was gorgeous in the metal, and to my eyes much better looking than the hardtop version. As displayed it retained the signature scissor doors, but they’d probably not be necessary in a convertible. That said, BMW spokesman Tom Plucinsky told me the Roadster is “not likely” for production, though the i8 coupe will appear on the market in 2014.

Five Seconds to 60

The two-seat Roadster is mechanically very similar to the coupe. It offers 17 to 19 miles of battery power, with a rating of 78 MPGe. It also packs a fire-breathing three-cylinder turbo engine that with the electric motor yields 354 horsepower. Zero to 62 takes five seconds, and 155 mph is possible. Recharging the 7.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery takes two hours at 220 volts. My guess is that the Roadster would sell at least as well as the regular i8 at whatever sky-high price BMW puts on it. The production car is rumored to be around $125,000.

Uma Thurman, Ludwig Willisch and i8

Uma Thurman and Ludwig Willisch meet the paparazzi. (Jim Motavalli photo)

There were a pair of electric scooters stowed in the i8’s trunk, suggesting intermodality. The plug-in motorbikes might be handy for whizzing in and around megacity traffic when the car gets stalled.

There for Uma

The New York event was packed with paparazzi, with arguably far more interest in actress Uma Thurman than in the photogenic car behind her. Thurman didn’t say much more than “it’s an honor to be here tonight,” but she spent quite a bit posing for the cameras in front of the i8. Thurman is said to be borrowing one of BMW’s ActiveE pilot program battery cars as a live-in houseguest. Many blogs seemed more interested in the big diamond ring she wore on her finger, reportedly from boyfriend Arpad Busson.

Also unveiled was what Plucinsky said was a new and close-to-production interior and seating in the i3. As the photo shows, the seats are radical, and look as hard and flat as a park bench. was unable to get close enough to test them out. An all-but-finished i3 will be shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show beginning November 30.

Here's some wordless and ultra-hip lifestyle-oriented video of the i8 on the road:


· Lindsay (not verified) · 5 years ago

Jim, do you know if the new i3 interior is the same as the one displayed in their new London store during the Olympics, or is it a third iteration?

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