BMWi concept to debut at LA Auto Show

European automobile giant BMW is scheduled to debut its initial lineup of "i Cars", the completely electric lithium-ion i3 "megacity vehicle", and the plug-in hybrid i8 high-performance car, for the first inaugural time in North America at the Los Angeles Automobile Show this week. From the looks of the initial concept art, these are some sweet, sweet looking concept cars. BMW really has outdone themselves again on the these "i Cars", even though they've long been known for cutting-edge design.

Rich Steinberg, manager of electric vehicle operations and strategy at BMW of North America states the following:

"[The i3 and i8] are both sort of bookends in terms of the 'Born Electric' concept. The i3 is ... a relatively small platform: four doors, four seats, pure-electric drive, lithium-ion battery technology. The i8 is on the other end of the spectrum ... extremely high performance yet at the same time having an extremely low carbon footprint." – Steinberg

That said, the i3 and i8 are the latest conceptual manifestations to date of "Project i," and were envisioned and implemented in 2007. Both i3 and i8 models utilize aluminum sandwich frames and full carbon-fiber bodies to keep the weight and cost down, thereby improving the car's range without impacting the performance. The sleek and nimble i3 and the exotic, predatorial i8, which races from zero to 60 mph in a zippy 4.6 seconds should be the final nail in the coffin of the concept of eco-friendly vehicles as being, well, slightly more advanced golf carts.

Production versions of the i3 and i8 are due in 2013 and 2014, currently BMW has been leasing select numbers of these electric concept cars to private drivers in a series of comprehensive field tests, in which input from these amateur "test pilots" will ultimately impact the final design and production models. Stay tuned for more this week as the LA Auto show rolls on.

[via LA Times]