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2011-11-10 08:27

BORN ELECTRIC: BMW is set to officially debut its i3 (shown above) and i8 at the Los Angeles auto show.

BMW unveiled a pair of concept cars, one a hybrid and another electric, made of light-weight carbon fibre and a transparent glass exterior.

The cars are expected to go into production within the next two to three years.

Image gallery: BMW i3

The carbon fibre in the i3 city car and i8 sports car significantly reduces the weight of the vehicle and the size of its frame, giving designers more flexibility and creating more interior space for passengers, said Richard Kim, who designed the exteriors of both vehicles.

The material, used in the aerospace sector and also for high-end bicycles, is valued for its strength-to-weight ratio. Its uses are expanding, however, and engineers are designing everything from camping equipment to pool cues.

For the German automaker, it allowed for more glass where there is traditionally metal, Kim said. The doors of both vehicles are mostly made of glass, along with much of their roofs and tail ends.


BMW said the car offers "superb safety in the event of a collision."

The final product may not appear as dramatic, but will have the same feel as the concept cars, Kim said.

"You may not see as much glass, but you will be able to see the light coming through," Kim said at a sneak peak event on Wednesday in New York.

The cars will make their official debut at the Los Angeles auto show, starting November 18 to 27, 2011.

The i3 is expected to go into production in 2013, with production of the i8 following in 2014. The cost of the cars have yet to be determined, though carbon fibre is not cheap.

The four-door i3 is designed for urban driving, with its wheels pushed out to the corners of the frame for stability.


The added stability of carbon fibre allowed designers to eliminate the support pillar traditionally found between the front and back doors, which will make it easier to enter and exit the vehicle, Kim said. Its front and rear doors swing open at the centre of the vehicle.

The i3 comes in an all-electric version that can go between 128km and 160km on a single charge, but buyers have the option of adding a small petrol engine that would recharge the battery if needed. It takes about six hours to fully charge the battery.

The sporty i8 has a sleek silhouette and two winged doors made of glass. The exterior is designed to help the car cut through the air more efficiently.

The all-wheel drive car has a battery and a petrol engine that work together, with the battery powering the front wheels and a petrol engine powering the rear. Without the petrol engine, the car has a range of about 32km, but fully charges in less than two hours.

Check out BMW's concept cars in action:


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