BMW i8 Plug-in Hybrid Spyder Given Green Light for Production, Says German Newspaper

Unveiled back in 2012 in Beijing China as a super-sexy open-top version of the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, the BMW i8 Spyder has everything it needs to become bedroom wall dreamcar material. It is sleek, agressive in its design, powerful and reasonably quick, taking around 4.4 seconds to hit 62 mph from standstill.

The BMW i8 Spyder could soon be in production, if rumors are correct.

The BMW i8 Spyder could soon be in production, if rumors are correct.

Powered by the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine, 98 kilowatt electric motor and 7.2 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack as the production BMW i8, the BMW i8 Spyder Concept hinted what a summer-friendly version of the BMW i8 with removable hard top could look like. Designed by Richard Kim, (who now works at the enigmatic automotive startup Faraday Future,) the BMW i8 Spyder won the German automaker two different concept car awards — one in Beijing in 2012 and one in Geneva the following year — for its stunning design.

Kim may have left BMW, but over the weekend we learned from German newspaper Handelsblatt (via BMWBlog) that the i8 Spyder has been approved for production, more than three years after it first debuted.

Two seats and plenty of open air: BMW i8 Spyder is a BMW i8 with the roof taken off.

Two seats and plenty of open air: BMW i8 Spyder is a BMW i8 with the roof taken off.

Talking to Handelsblatt, BMW CEO Harald Krüger said the BMW i8 Spyder is headed for production some point in the near future, boasting a potentially larger, more powerful battery pack and 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine in place of the 3-cylinder 1.5-litre engine to increase overall performance.

Specifics are thin on the ground, but as our friends at Autobloggreen remind us, while BMW is happy to use fully-removable roof panels on concept versions of its open-topped vehicles, production vehicles tend towards automatically-retracting hard tops instead. Thanks to the extra space freed up by deleting the rear seats, the i8 Spyder should easily accommodate such a setup.

While BMW has been working on the i8 Spyder for many years — initially with the hope of bringing it to market some time in 2015 as a 2016 model-year car — the ultra-lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic used across the BMW i-brand range has caused the German automaker some significant engineering challenges.

That’s because CFRP derives a lot of its intrinsic strength from the shapes it is moulded into, not just its mechanical composition. Try to make a CFRP cockpit with no roof, and there’s a lot less strength than there would be with a roof. Consequently we understand from 2013 that BMW’s engineers had to heavily modify the lower part of the i8 Spyder’s CFRP passenger cell to get the necessary rigidity needed for crash protection and body stiffness on the road.

Since then, we’ve heard little of  the engineering challenge, but considering this new claim that the i8 Spyder is ready for production, we can only presume BMW has found a suitable solution.

As to volume? While the BMW i8 proved incredibly popular when it launched last year, prompting massive dealer markups and waiting lists more than a year long, we note that part of the demand was driven by clever marketing on BMW’s part — as well as a fairly modest production plan.  Like its plans for the BMW i3 and BMW i3 REx electric cars, BMW’s initial i8 rollout plan was extremely conservative, so much so that BMW has since increased production plans to keep up with demand multiple times.

As a high-spec variant of an already niche-market car, we’d expect the BMW i8 Spyder would be produced in even smaller volumes, at least until BMW had proved a market for it.

And that means, we’d suggest, that you’ll need a rather large hunk of cash — in excess of $150,000, we’d guess — to buy one.


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