Will the next BMW i8 supercar go electric?

BMW may ditch its hybrid powertrain or at least offer an alternative for the next version of the BMW i8, according to a report in Autocar.

A source close to BMW development boss Klaus Fröhlich allegedly told Autocar of a ‘secret programme’ that involves replacing the electric motor and 1.5-litre petrol hybrid powertrain with a triple electric motor setup paired mated to a significantly larger battery.

The ‘i’ division’s fuel cell prototype will be used as a basis because the larger battery cell could be fitted in the place of the usual hydrogen tanks, giving it a range of more than 249 miles ─ Tesla Model S range territory.

“The idea is to use the space within the widened centre tunnel to house the battery instead of the hydrogen tanks,” the insider explained.

Despite the bigger battery cell, the source said the new BMW i8 would weigh no more than the current 1,485kg car. And that its three electric motors will rev more highly than the current generation, giving them a higher internal speed.

“BMW has a great history of high-revving combustion engines,” the insider added. “We’re looking to take this tradition into the electric car arena with electric motors that rev far higher than those seen in production today.”

So how powerful could an all-electric i8 be? It is thought each electric motor will generate 268bhp, giving it more a potential output of more than 500bhp. A lot more than the current car’s 357bhp, then, and perfectly feasible given the improvement in relevant technologies.

Exactly when an all-electric BMW i8 will arrive, if at all, is unclear but there have been sightings of a facelifted i8 being tested for a 2016 release, meaning we could be talking years (still waiting for the Spyder, after all). A 10 per cent power increase and a lower ride height is expected.

The BMW i8 may not be the fastest supercar, but its futuristic styling, memorable driving experience and the fact it feels like nothing else on the road has earned it many fans – not to mention a lengthy waiting list to buy one. 0-62mph takes 4.5 seconds and the top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.