It's the end of the line (literally) for BMW's i8 plug-in hybrid sports car
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BMW has built the last example of its groundbreaking i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. The very last is also the only one of 20,500 made over six years to be finished in striking Portimao Blue, according to BMW Blog.
Production was due to finish earlier this year, ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the final builds were delayed until this month.
BMW says the last 18 cars were specified with input from the i8 Owners Club, hence the unique colour of the last example. And yes, it is heading for private ownership rather than being retained by the company.
The jury is out on the relative success of the two vehicles that launched BMW's EV-focused i-brand, the i8 (2014) and the i3 city car (2013). Both showcased innovative Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) construction and electric powertrains, with pure BEV (i3), range-extender (i3 again) and plug-in hybrid (i8) technology used.
Both were also highly acclaimed by the press.
Technologies pioneered in those models have since contributed to the construction and powertrains of more mainstream BMW models. But following its early lead in EV technology with i8/i3, BMW was also heavily criticised for not developing its EV expertise further.
When former chief executive Harald Krueger stepped down in July last year, it was widely reported that company dissatisfaction over his failure to capitalise on the early lead BMW had in EV technology was the reason.
Kruger also rather famously collapsed next to an i8 at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show shortly after he took up his new role; symbolic?
While BMW has since moved quickly to accelerate EV development, there won't be direct replacements for either the i8 or i3 models.
There's almost certainly another EV sports car in BMW's future, likely based on the futuristic Vision M Next. It'll still be a plug-in hybrid rather than a BEV, to keep weight down. But don't expect to see it until at least 2023.
It's now widely known that BMW won't directly replace the i3 when it comes to the end of its life either. BMW has argued that the forthcoming i4 sedan (due in 2021) will fill the role of a more mainstream BEV for urban buyers - although it's more 3 Series size.
And of course BMW's Mini brand is now pursuing an electric theme more seriously, using battery technology from the i3.