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Tony O'Kane | Jun 27, 2016

BMW’s i8 hybrid supercar could go down the all-electric path soon, with murmurs of a pure EV version of the carbon-bodied, $300k coupe currently circulating through the industry.

Citing an unnamed source, UK outlet Autocar says BMW is currently developing a battery-electric i8 prototype based on its 2015 hydrogen fuel cell concept, which is built around a modified version of the i8 hybrid’s carbon fibre platform (above and below).

With a wider centre tunnel for its cylindrical hydrogen storage tanks, Autocar’s source says the hydrogen prototype provides more storage space for batteries than the production i8 - which will in turn allow enough power to be stored to make a combustion engine unnecessary.

There’s no talk of how far an all-electric i8 would be able to travel on a single charge, though it’s claimed that the all-electric i8 should tip the scales at no more than the hybrid version’s 1485kg kerb weight.

The current i8 (below) is able to travel up to 500km on a single charge and with a full tank of fuel.

Autocar’s source also says the all-electric i8 will be motivated by three electric motors, with one powering the front axle (much like the existing i8 hybrid) and the other two powering a rear wheel each, presumably giving the new i8 a performance-enhancing torque vectoring capability as well.

Designed to operate at higher rpms than existing electric car motors, the i8 EV’s trio of brushless motors are expected to provide more power than the current crop of high-output electric motors.

Another side effect of their high-rev capability will be a reduction in size, with faster-spinning components not having to be as beefy as slower-moving items.

“BMW has a great history of high-revving combustion engines,” said the BMW insider to Autocar.

“We’re looking to take this tradition into the electric car arena with electric motors that rev far higher than those seen in production today.”

As for power output, word on the street is that each motor in BMW’s i8 EV prototype can deliver up to 200kW. With three aboard, its total system output should be well in excess of the current model’s 266kW figure.

However, before an all-electric successor arrives to replace it, we can expect the i8 to undergo a mechanical update.

Expected to be unveiled later this year, the 2017 BMW i8 is said to feature an enhanced cooling package to help shed heat from its mid-mounted 1.5 litre turbo engine, while a 26Ah lithium-ion battery pack borrowed from the X5 xDrive40e provides 6Ah more energy storage than before.

A 7.2kW inductive charging system also promises a reduced charge time compared to the current model’s 3.6kW system.

MORE: BMW News and Reviews

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