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The BMW i8 looked weird when it came out 10 years ago, and it still does today. It was also powered by an unusual powertrain, had weird scissor doors, and was surprisingly slow for a $105,000 supercar. But none of those things were the point. The point was to develop a mostly-electric hybrid supercar that looked extravagant and showed what an electric future could bring. Did it succeed before it was killed off?

Is the BMW i8 fully electric?

The BMW i8 is not fully electric. Instead, this sports car features one of the weirdest engine pairings of its time to create a stunning 369 horsepower. It has a turbocharged tiny 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine (from a Mini) paired with two electric motors. Now, it seems, every supercar manufacturer from Lexus and McLaren to Ferrari and Lamborghini all took heed and now make hypercars with a similar type of all-wheel-drive hybrid system.

As far as plug-in hybrids go, it doesn’t get great fuel economy. As far as exotic sports cars go, it’s amazing. The car gets 69 MPGe, or 27 MPG combined on gas. For comparison, a contemporary Chevy Corvette got just 20, and made similar horsepower from a big gas-powered V8. The Vette, though, was a bit quicker.  But, the i8 had one trick up its sleeve: it could travel 22 miles on electricity alone.

Why was the BMW i8 discontinued?

An orange BMW i8 Roadster with a Christmas tree in the passenger seat
An orange i8 Roadster | BMW

The last i8s rolled into dealerships in 2020. Over its six-year run BMW only sold 20,465 i8 coupes and Roadsters. That would a great year for Ferrari, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to other BMWs. The cars uniqueness probably added up to extra tooling costs for the manufactuer, and by the end of its run, dealers weren’t too excited to have one sitting in their showroom. By 2020, after a six-year run the i8 had run its course.

There is a rumor that BMW will revive the i8 name for a 2026 supercar. We hope that comes true. Like the folks at AutoCar said, it was bold of BMW to even take this kind of a risk.

Was the BMW i8 a failure?

The final group of BMW i8 cars leaving the factory in 2019
The final batch of i8 cars left the factory in 2019. | BMW

Car enthusiasts will debate this one for a long time. Was the BMW i8 a failure? Did it beckon a new mostly-electric future? Did it make its mark. We say it did make its mark and proved that a hybrid supercar can be fun to drive. And, who’s to argue with its 40-mpg around town?

But did it live up to its promise as a new generation of supercar that showed us the future of electric power? Yes, and no. We can only think “What if?” What if BMW hadn’t decided to put a hyper-efficient Mini Cooper engine in it, and instead boosted one of its legendarily-smooth 3.0-liter V6 engines? With that swap, the car could have easily had 150 more horsepower and 0-60 times in the 3.5 second range. That would have put it on top of the sports car heap at the time.

Instead, the car was comparatively slow, comparatively cramped, and simply weird. While BMW proved you can build a cool, exotic, fun electric car, others really harnessed the idea and made faster exotics.


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