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When BMW takes the plunge into new waters, it doesn't do things by halves. We saw the original Vision EfficientDynamics two-door supersport silently speed onto the company stand at last September's Frankfurt motor show, and the effect left the crowd suitably stunned.

We've just made it to the former East Germany for a special ride in the carbon-fiber showstopper that is the crowning jewel for BMW's new future mobility think-tank department called project i, for "innovation." How the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics feels while it hurtles itself along is a familiar sensation in electric hybrids ***8212; all that torque from the moment you start etc., etc. But there is more going on here than in the typical alternative-propulsion supercar.

All the Right Hybrid Boxes Checked
We ride in the car under three different drive modes: front-axle all-electric mode at calmer start-off speeds, in all-wheel full-electric mode at middle-range steady highway speeds, and then with the two electric motors and 161-horsepower 1.5-liter three-cylinder prototype diesel engine fully engaged at rocket-launch speeds. Granted, this is a full-time employed project i test mule in the truest sense, and there are still many things to refine and decide prior to the proposed 2013 market launch, but the stage is certainly set to blow customers away.

Strapping in to the carbon-fiber shelled seats, we felt all of the remarkable forward thrust during four straight-line dashes through the Leipzig darkness. The feel during quick sprints on the narrow 21-inch aero wheels and low-resistance tires is of a very produce-able super GT that can hold its own into and out of serious curves as well. The powertrain can be programmed into Normal or Sport mode, so we requested to keep the S lit up on the blue screen instrument panel. The aim is to not have the range extender ignite until things reach at least 31 mph (i.e., 50 km/h).

The transmission is a six-speed, dual-clutch Tiptronic system with paddles, but whether it stays this way remains to be seen. "Some automatics," said BMW Vice President for Total Vehicle Architecture and Vehicle Concepts Philip Koehn, "are now so technologically advanced that we could conceivably simplify matters in this way without losing sportiness." He also went on to add that the cachet for "dual-clutch sportiness" cannot, however, be denied.

Quick One
But this vision of BMW's strategy goes way beyond the current mild hybrids it already produces. In this application, the front electric motor provides 80 hp, the rear 51 hp, and then there's the three-cylinder common-rail 161-hp diesel in back, all swapping responsibilities forward and rearward as needed. That's 292 hp to go along with the 590 pound-feet of torque, most of which is catapulting things right off idle.

A gas power plant will likely act as a range extender. So yes, there's some Chevrolet in this BMW.

There's also 30 seconds of electric overboost time available when and if you need it, taking total available power to 323 horses. Thus pushed, the 3,200-pound BMW Vision EfficientDynamics accelerates to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds, according to BMW.

The number of lithium-ion cells has dropped from 96 in Frankfurt to now 91 here since the electronics running the rear engines' management (ICE and electric) operates optimally on 388 volts. This according to the car's project leader Jürgen Greil. The supplier is Korean lithium-ion manufacturer Kokam.

The actual production version will most likely use a gas power plant to act as range extender for the 91 lithium-ion battery cells now packed into where the propeller shaft would be. So yes, there's some Chevrolet in this exotic-looking BMW prototype. There's also the possibility of using just a single electric motor to help minimize weight.

Keeping It Sporty and Clean
Not only is the wild and slippery exterior all carbon-fiber, but the whole chassis is as well. The concave airflow channeling within the body panels is the most stunning of the stunning bits. But will that be able to stay around for 2013, not to mention the beetle-wing scissor doors and ultra-sliver front and rear lights? Most likely no, no and no. So we wait to see what evolves from this wished-for design.

Environmentally, the prototype sets an example as well. The CO2 rating right now is down near that of the least polluting Smart Fortwo powertrain. Its range under the best of circumstances is estimated at 435 miles, and average consumption is projected to be around 62 mpg.

But, ouch, do some prices ever need to come down a bit. This BMW Vision EfficientDynamics prototype, once it reaches the production line at either the Munich n.1 plant (where all of this project i work is being developed) or new Leipzig plant, is probably going to cost around $150,000 if the U.S. dollar continues its reign of devaluation.

Ever-Growing Possibilities
The BMW Vision EfficientDynamics test mule prototype you see here for this special hands-on show-n-go has changed only a bit from that 2009 car. The tail end is now longer to help minimize aerodynamic drag even more so (now at 0.22 Cd) and some of the packaging for the electrical guts of the operation beneath the space-age carbon-fiber body has been resituated. According to BMW Group Design Chief Adrian von Hooydonk, this is the first BMW concept car ever to have gone through complete wind-tunnel testing.

A BMW team boss gave us a tantalizing hint that the new tail should bring to mind what Le Mans 24-hour premier LMP1 racers from Audi or Bentley have done with the rear ends of their conquering cars. Thus, some literally shocking possibilities come to mind for the future of the most popular British race in France. "Even though right now," says our source, "BMW is working full-time to satisfy the new DTM effort, there's no telling what new classes for hybrid sports cars might be created by the time this one is ready."

The Most Exclusive of BMWs
The Vision EfficientDynamics is destined to be a BMW halo car, exactly in the spirit of the 1978 M1. "A new-generation M1-spirited vehicle," another BMW source tells us, "must do something totally new and sort of unexpected. Just as the original did."

BMW says it could produce as many as 5,000 units per year of the Vision EfficientDynamics car depending on demand. Demand which should be somewhat determined by that electrifying ***8212; albeit hypothetical at this point ***8212; price tag.

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smooth like butter
1,541 Posts
that 3-cyl must have been tough to balance...

By the way, great site Tim and brilliant idea in putting all this together. I'm a newbie here willing to talk cars any day. This has been a great place to do that.
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