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BMW i8 Concept Spyder loses a roof, keeps eco credentials

BMW’s four-seat eco coupe, the i8, isn’t due in showrooms until 2014 but the company has already created a variant. Lopping off the coupe’s roof and chopping six inches from its wheelbase has created the i8 Concept Spyder, a two-seat plug-in hybrid roadster.

It's green, but the BMW I8 Spyder is also very mean.
It’s green, but the BMW I8 Spyder is also very mean.

The car is clearly closer to a production model than the i8 concept seen to date. The coupe’s transparent plastic doors are no more, replaced by conventional looking items with frameless glass. They do still swing dramatically upwards, rather than outwards, however. The interior, meanwhile, has lost its show-car flimsiness and looks ready to roll.

There’s no roof yet, although a folding two-piece top is in the works. For now, BMW has filled the space under the transparent rear deck with a pair of gimmicky electric scooters — of the skeletal, stand-on variety best left to children and people from London’s Shoreditch area.

Like the coupe, the Spyder is built using a carbon-fibre body atop an aluminium chassis — an arrangement BMW calls LifeDrive. The front wheels are propelled by a 131bhp electric motor and the rear axle by a 223bhp turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine. Their combined 354bhp should whip the finished car to 62mph in 5.0 seconds. Top speed is capped at 155mph.

Power for the electric motor arrives from a bank of lithium ion batteries housed in the centre tunnel, which can be charged either by a generator attached to the rear engine or via the mains — a full top up takes less than two hours. Up to 19 miles of silent electric wafting is available from a freshly charged car.

With its selection of power sources, the i8 Spyder will sometimes be front-wheel drive, sometimes rear-wheel drive, and occasionally a 4×4. A suitably clever electronic system will decide what’s needed from moment to moment, although the driver will have a say too, via a mode selector running from Eco Pro to Sport. The control systems will also talk to the satnav and keep tabs on real-time traffic data, to try to apportion battery reserves during the most efficient points in a journey.

BMW says it expects to achieve combined cycle consumption of 94mpg. Price and a showroom date remain to be revealed.

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