Headlines around the world may have proclaimed Tesla as the star of electric vehicle (EV) performance, but an executive from its rival BMW i Division has pertinently pointed out that there is a world of difference between straight-line acceleration and handling.
Answering questions about why BMW i – which for the last five years has only sold the i3 EV and hybrid i8 Coupe – has not yet produced a challenger to Tesla, BMW i8 project manager Markus Pluntke states that batteries are not good enough to deliver sports-car handling.
Indeed while the company’s i8 Coupe delivers a 4.4-second 0-100km/h claim, versus 2.9sec for a Model S P100D, he claims that “for a sports car it’s more than 0-100km/h acceleration … it's really about cornering.”
“You do not want to put an 800-to-900 kilogram battery pack into a sports car to get the power, and we don’t want a sports car that would be like limited to where the customer lives and maybe just to take it out of the garage, show it off a little and then bring it back,” he tells MOTOR at a recent BMW i event in Europe.
“I think the battery technology one day could be good to do a really proper sports car. But … it’s about weight, weight distribution, and the very stiff body [of i8].”
Where a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder/electric motor i8 Coupe weighs 1535kg, for example, the battery pack in the Model S P100D contributes to a hefty 2241kg kerb weight.
The upshot is that while battery technology has now become good enough to potentially allow for a longer range in some vehicles, there is still a lose-lose situation for a sports car buyer – the batteries are still heavy, yet a powerful electric motor will drain them quickly.
Plunkte promises, however, that “there will always be an electrified sports car by BMW” but that plug-in petrol-electric technology will still evolve for a long period of time from within the engineering halls of its Munich headquarters.
The ultimate goal, he reiterates, would have to be fast performance, long range and also a kerb weight figure that does not start with a ‘2’.
“We [will continue to] do a sports car that needs to be a proper usable sports car as the i8 is,” he says.
“Battery technology is evolving fast [and] I’m confident that there will be a day when you can do a pure electric sports car with enough range, with enough power and without having exceeded a two-tonne weight overall.
“[But] we will see when this technology moves to that point.”
BMW i Vision Dynamics medium liftback concept shown.
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