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Will BMW’s i8 Hybrid Sports Car Steal Tesla Motors' Model S Sales?

BMW's i8. Photo: BMW. 

It can go 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds, has a TwinPower Turbo 3-cylinder combustion engine situated at the rear axle, sports a front-wheel situated electric motor -- which produces a combined system output of 362 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque -- and gets an estimated 94 mpg. What is it? It's BMW's (NASDAQOTH: BAMXF  ) new i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. More importantly, it could be the first "serious contender" for Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) Model S.  

BMW's i8 interior. Photo: BMW.

BMW's i8
From the outside, the i8 is a breathtaking, two-door sports car that boasts a drag coefficient of 0.26, close to 50:50 weight distribution, and, thanks to the use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, a curb weight of 3,285 pounds. However, thanks to its 2+2 seating layout, the i8 can seat four adults. Further, with the combination of an electric engine in the front and combustion engine in the back, the i8 is all-wheel drive. Of course, for those that want it, the i8 can go 22 miles on pure electric with a top speed of 75 mph.

The bad news is the i8 has a starting MSRP of $135,700 -- before destination and handling, and before federal tax credit, so it's a bit more expensive than most will be willing to pay. The good news is that plugincars reports that BMW expects total volume to be between 5,000 and 10,000 units a year. Moreover, Edmunds states, "At $136K, the BMW i8 will be the first serious contender for the Tesla Model S that has drawn plenty of attention from wealthy buyers who want a green image." 

Tesla's Model S

Tesla Motors' Model S. Photo: Tesla Motors.

The Model S is a stylish four-door sedan that can go 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds with the 85 kWh Battery (4.2 seconds if you upgrade to the 85 kWh Performance edition). Plus, it sports a drag coefficient of 0.24, a 48:52 weight distribution, and a curb weight of 4,647.3 pounds. Further, it can comfortably seat five adults, and unlike the i8, is a rear-wheel drive, pure electric vehicle that has an EPA certified range of 265 miles for the 85 kWh battery, or 88 MPGe city, 90 MPGe highway.

Tesla Motors' Model S interior. Photo: Tesla Motors. 

The MSRP for a 60 kWh Model S starts at $69,900 -- before destination and regulatory doc fee, and federal tax credit, while the 85 kWh Model S starts at $79,900, also before fees and federal tax credit. However, according to Investor's Business Daily, the average selling price for a Model S is over $90,000. 

What to watch
When it comes to price, the i8 is definitely the more costly of the two vehicles. However, when you look at base specs, it's also the most impressive. More importantly, Edmunds predicts that the i8 is the first "serious contender" for the Model S. Unfortunately, the i8 isn't expected to hit showrooms until spring of 2014, so we'll have to wait and see if that prediction turns out to be true. Regardless of whether it steals Tesla sales, the i8 is an impressive vehicle, and was conceived from the ground-up as a plug-in hybrid sports car. Additionally, it's one of the most widely anticipated cars in BMW's history. Consequently, when it comes to high-priced car sales, the i8 is one to watch. 

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Read/Post Comments (34) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 1:59 PM, dougieb wrote:

    The BMW is a beautiful car - no doubt, but "most impressive?!" Hardly...

    First... 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds is almost a second behind the Tesla. Even the Tesla SUV beats 3.8 seconds. When your sports car can't beat an SUV, it should be back to the drawing board.

    Second, the BMW is a hybrid. This means thousands of extra moving and breakable parts to maintain and fix. This means extra weight. This means more complexity. With the Tesla, there are relatively few moving parts to maintain and repair.

    Third, the BMW's "top speed of 75 mph" I thought had to be a misprint... the Tesla can do over 100 mph without it feeling you are going over 55 mph - and its electronically limited at something like 165.

    Fourth... range. The Tesla's 265 miles vs. the BMW's whopping 22 whole miles on electric? Are you kidding?

    Fifth, the Tesla holds up to seven people vs. the BMW's four people.

    Sixth, no doubt the BMW would suck in the storage/trunk space as well since it has the front and back filled with hybrid BS. The Tesla has a staggering amount of trunk space in front and back.

    Katie Spence, where exactly is the "more impressive" spec for the BMW? Yes, it looks amazing, but what a pile of um... seriously 70mph for 22 miles?! With a straight face?

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 2:20 PM, nixon wrote:

    These vehicles are not comparable. I've owned several BMW's and they have awesome handling, build quality and performance but in this case the BMW is the technical the equivalent of a Toyota Prius. It still has internal combustion motor (PHEV) that provides any performance aspects. Porsche is also doing something silly like this.

    Readers need to actually drive a BEV vs. a PHEV for a day before being able to actually make an intelligent comment on the driver experience.

    The Tesla is a rear wheel drive BEV, basically the only rear wheel drive electric car available with 4 second specs. which any BMW driver will tell you is a significant component of their performance strategy (rear wheel drive). The Tesla is also available with a range approaching 300 miles which is equivalent to my old M3 that had a 16.5 gallon gasoline tank. The Tesla also has huge maintenance advantage over the BMW by lacking the fickle high-performance gasoline engine that requires a lot of maintenance, oil, gasoline, drive belts, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters, emissions controls, coolant and complex engine controls to make practical.

    I'll buy another BMW when they introduce an fully electric car (BEV) that (1) doesn't look like a stupid concept car and (2) has specifications approaching or exceeding the Tesla P85+. Until then I'm sticking with the BEV. Of course one must remember that the legacy car companies have a huge disincentive to go fully electric because the lack of maintenance on these vehicles directly interferes with their traditional dealership model. Dealerships make most of their money off of maintenance so something like the Model S is a huge disruptive threat and you can see why Tesla does not follow the dealership model.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 2:23 PM, nixon wrote:

    dougieb --- I think the Tesla is electronically limited to 130mph, they need to raise that to 155mph to match the performance German cars in my opinion

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 2:40 PM, TMFKSpence wrote:


    You must have insider knowledge of Tesla's SUV, because according to the Tesla website, the Model X can go 0-60 in "under 5 seconds," and Elon Musk hinted that it'll be 4.4 seconds. Plus, the only Model S that's faster than the i8 is the P85... by 0.2 seconds.

    Second, I've provided curb weight. BMW's i8 is lighter. Period.

    Third, the 75mph is for electric only. The i8's top speed overall is 155mph.

    Fourth, the i8 doesn't have a range problem. It also has a combustion engine. And as PHEV's outsold BEV's in 2013, I'm guessing buyers don't have an issue with PHEV's, either.

    Let's compare specs, shall we? Tesla's P85 (top model) has a top speed of 130mph vs. the i8's 155mph. The i8 gets 94 mpg, vs. the Model S' 88-90 MPGe. The i8 can go 0-60 in 4.4 seconds vs. the P85's 4.2, however, the i8 is also all-wheel drive vs. the Model S' rear-wheel drive. The i8 can go 22 miles on pure electric for daily short trips, but also has a combustion engine for those longer hauls, i.e. there is no range anxiety, or long waits for charging. The i8 is over 1,362 lbs lighter than the Model S. The i8 is hands down the better looking of the two.

    There you go. Specs.


  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 4:42 PM, Jim5437532 wrote:

    The Tesla model S. still has defects that make it a fire hazard. Tesla charger connections are still overheating, melting and burning. Tesla is Junk.

    On January 9, 2014 Elon Musk said that replacement adapters that are part of the recall would be mailed out within two weeks. A month later Tesla customers have still not received the replacement adapters that are part of the Tesla model S. recall.

    Several people have been injured by faulty Tesla charge connectors. Tesla is big on making promises and hype, but short on delivery. Tesla needs to start making safety a top priority. Tesla needs to stop playing blame games and games with semantics. Tesla needs to stop lying. Tesla needs to be proactive instead of reactive. Tesla is being a follower of technology, rather than a leader. Tesla is a greedy corporation that has a disregard for safety. The Tesla model S. is an E-Pinto..

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 4:54 PM, nixon wrote:

    Some actually quoted maintenance numbers from a local BMW dealership:

    Replace fuel filter $357.84

    Replace differential seal $669.96 labor + $65.00 parts

    Replace front struts $1985.77 (parts are about $600)

    Replace rear shocks and pads $1243.80 (parts are about $400)

    Replace faded rear parcel shelf cover $1286.90

    4-wheel alignment $579.95

    Replace scraped plastic cover under engine (gravel shield) $690.68

    Valve clearance adjustment $1800.00

    Engine oil change $264.93

    Now you please honestly tell me that manufacturers aren't maintenance driven and this is the real reason they hate Tesla

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 4:56 PM, nixon wrote:

    Oh and BTW the real 0-60 number on the Tesla is 3.9 seconds.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 5:07 PM, TMFKSpence wrote:


    Per Tesla: P85 0-60 4.2 seconds, 85 5.4 seconds, 60 5.9 seconds. If you don't like those numbers, take it up with Tesla.


  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 5:16 PM, TheMogget wrote:

    Oh, the spec wars. Comparing specs on an unreleased hybrid AWD coupe with a full-electric 4-door RWD sedan seems silly to me.

    For example, lets talk about that all-important efficiency number. The i8's 94 mpg seems superior, but it still runs on gas. Car and Driver's preproduction i8 seemed to get much worse numbers, like "40 mpg city and 45 mpg highway" when they didn't stick to that wimpy electric-only mode. The Tesla's 88 MPGe is powered by everything from the sun to coal, and is achievable at real freeway speeds for hundreds of miles at a time. The Tesla wins big-time on 'green' specs.

    Ranges? The Tesla's range is plenty for everything but roadtrips, but the i8's electric-only mode just won't cut it. In gas mode, the i8 doesn't have that range problem but neither does my v8 Audi that drinks fuel like a jet.

    How about those top speeds? Sure, the i8's 75 mph limit seems lame, but who is going to use that electric-only mode in a sports car? The 155 mph is plenty. The 130 mph top speed on the Tesla seems low, but that is an electronic limit that can easily be raised, and is higher than most people will use.

    How about those 0-60 times? The Tesla's 'official' time of 4.4 is clearly conservative, as most review tests have shown it to be somewhere between 4.1 and 4.2. The preproduction BMW looks to be about 4.2-ish also, but who knows what the production one will do?

    The Tesla is a 5-seater (kid seats dont count) with 4 doors and oodles of cargo space, the i8 is a 4-seater with 2 doors. The BMW loses here completely.

    The i8 is over 1,362 lbs lighter than the Model S, because it has no battery worth speaking of and has used quite a bit of carbon fiber. This turns into its biggest real win - handling.

    So in the end, I think the specs won't matter. These will each be a 'green' option in their respective classes. If you want a 'green' sports car you get the i8; if you want a 'green' sedan you take the Tesla. If we insist on only considering what a car can do in electric-only mode, the BMW isn't an reasonable option at all.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 5:50 PM, smithy007 wrote:

    Ok, first of all, different testers will have different results of 0-60 based on things like, driver, road conditions, etc. It's the official 0-60 that matters. In Tesla's case it's 4.2 for the P85, 5.4 for 85, and 5.9 for 60. No, those numbers aren't conservative, they're the actual results. And anyone who compares a portion of one car (electric mode) to the entirety of another car is lacking a basic understand of logic. It's overall car vs overall car. And if Edmunds claims the i8 will be a serious contender to the Model S, it will be. Case closed, Edmunds is an expert.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 6:25 PM, wiserinvestor wrote:

    Great, now charge the Tesla or the BMW with an EV solar charging system equipped with Hyper X high performance solar modules. Hyper X solar offers a better PTC to STC ratio "Real World" performance according to the California Energy Commission's performance rating listings than over 100 of SunPower's solar panel models.

    Hyper X solar also offers an incredible -0.27%/degree C temperature coefficient rating for awesome performance in hot/warm climates and best of all Hyper X solar systems are priced at nearly half the price of a SunPower solar system.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 6:57 PM, EdwardInFlorida wrote:

    Another silly article by "Fool". They wrote something similar when the i3 was introduced. The i8 is a "sexy" car no doubt but it is aimed at a different demographic than the Model S.

    First of all, the i8's MSRP is higher than the Model S. Second of all, having two drive-trains increase complexity and maintenance. Third of all, the i8 doesn't do either the electric or the fuel powered thing very well.

    I could list a bunch more of disadvantages but I actually like the car and hope BMW does well with it.

    There is nothing extraordinary about it though it does have a few innovative features, but as far as being a "threat" to Tesla? I'm sure Elon is not having any problems getting his sleep.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:16 PM, smithy007 wrote:

    Judging by EdwardinFlorida's comment, he must think he's better at evaluating cars than Edmunds, because that's who said the i8 will be a serious contender for the Model S:

    Ok, EdwardinFlorida, what are your credentials? Why are you smarter than Edmunds, and why is Edmunds wrong about the i8 being a contender for the Model S?

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:19 PM, btc909 wrote:

    135K before options.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:25 PM, weaponz wrote:

    The Tesla Model S is far superior it is not even a contest, the Model S has faster 0 - 60, now i8 has higher top speed but that only helps in germany, your not going to be going 130mph let alone 155mph.

    As far as mpg goes, the 94mpg is under NEDC. Under the NEDC Tesla Model S has 310 miles range. Which would be 104mpg for the Tesla Model S.

    The Tesla Model S is a full sized sedan that seats 5 adults + 2 children and doesn't use any gas. While i8 has electric range of only 22 miles.

    On top of that, Tesla Model S fully specced out is cheaper than a base i8.

    It is no contest, nobody in their right mind would chose an i8 over a Tesla. They just don't compete.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:29 PM, smithy007 wrote:

    Says weaponz who is also the same person who claimed Tesla doesn't use nickel or cobalt in its battery, li mining isn't bad for the environment, the EPA didn't test a PHEV battery when it clearly stated it did on pg. 1, etc. Seriously weaponz, now tell me why Edmunds is wrong and YOU are right.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:31 PM, weaponz wrote:

    @smithy007 - I quote Edmund's quote

    "Edmunds says: At $136K, the BMW i8 will be the first serious contender for the Tesla Model S that has drawn plenty of attention from wealthy buyers who want a green image"

    Edmunds may know a thing about cars, but knows absolutely nothing about green. If someone was going after a "green image", even a volt would be better than an i8.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:36 PM, smithy007 wrote:

    HAHAHA! You're seriously kidding with that comment, right?! Edmunds doesn't understand green cars? Wow. It's a site dedicated to cars; reviewing them, driving them, etc. They are experts on cars. Period. While you like to make up "facts" to support your assertions. Congratulations on another gem of an argument.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 7:42 PM, weaponz wrote:

    @smity007 - You must be confusing me for someone else. I never said Tesla does not use Nickel and Cobalt. Tesla's battery is Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide. or NCA.

    Never said Li mining is not bad for the environment, I said Li mining is one of the least environmentally damaging mining COMPARED to other mining.

    And I posted my comment before you posted the Edmunds link fyi.

    Though it clearly says in the Edmunds link "Official EPA fuel economy numbers have not been published"

    It is impossible for a hybrid to get 94mpg unless they are talking about "battery only" mpg.

    And you'd be surprised how technologically illiterate Edmunds can be. If you followed the long term test of the Tesla Model S, they didn't even know the car had Home Link.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 8:10 PM, smithy007 wrote:

    Weaponz it was you. And there you go again claiming outrageous lies. Tell me, who's comment is first, mine with the link or yours? Oh, yeah. Mine. And since YOU claim that Edmunds is technically illiterate, please provide proof in the form of a link. Also, please provide proof that YOU know more about green vehicles than Edmunds.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 8:50 PM, weaponz wrote:

    @smithy007- Ok, provide me a link where I said that there is no cobalt or nickel in the battery. I know you are BSing because I knew what the battery has been made out of for years ever since Panasonic gave Tesla the first NCA battery. So there is no way I would say that.

    And in terms of order, I made my post first but my post took longer to write as it is much larger. At the time I started writing my comment, yours was not there.

    And here is a link to Edmunds claiming there is no Home Link in the car:

    As far as last statement, what exactly would count as proof? It is not like me and Edmunds are going to sit down for a quiz. So anything would be subjective.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 10:05 PM, Grendal007 wrote:

    There will be almost no cross shopping of the Model S to the i8. They are in completely different buying categories. The only thing they have in common is they both have batteries. That's it. To think the i8 will steal sales from Tesla is ridiculous. A used Tesla Roadster is closer comparison to the i8 than the Model S. It's a bit like saying the Chevy Volt will take sales away from the Model S. They are selling to two completely different clientele. Edmunds is wrong. I like the i8. It's very pretty and cool. I will be buying a Model S. I'm not even considering the i8. The Fisker never took a sale from Tesla either and it is much closer comparison to the i8 than the Model S.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 10:07 PM, dlwatib wrote:

    It doesn't really matter what Edmunds writes saying the BMW is a contender. What matters is what Tesla customers think, and Tesla customers have made it clear that they aren't interested in hybrids no matter how competently they may have been built. Only a pure electric vehicle will do. Since this BMW is not a pure electric, and furthermore is not in the same price class as the Tesla, clearly it is not a contender for the pure EV crowd that Tesla caters to. It's useless to argue Edmunds expertise in the matter because they aren't the ones shelling out the dead presidents.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 10:11 PM, JackB125 wrote:

    Hybrids vs BEV's -- Apples & kiwi's. Completely different value propositions, but these comparison articles keep coming and coming.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 10:13 PM, Grendal007 wrote:

    If some Edmunds writer truly believes that the i8 is going to threaten the Tesla Model S then I will be happy to say that he is wrong and doesn't know what he is talking about. The Model S will sell over 40K cars this year regardless of whether the i8 is around or not. The Model X will sell over 15K cars in 2015 in addition to whatever Model S sales (40K+) there are. The i8 will have no effect on their sales either.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 11:25 PM, Baddaboom wrote:

    Wow the. BMW scumbags are out in full force tonight. When you're done sucking off the employees at Edmunds, I hope youll look in the mirror and realize how stupid you look when you say the i8 is a contender for the tesla. There is no comparison. So just stop. It's the same idiots coming back trying to prove to people that don't even want to bother arguing with you. It's not worth the effort. I simply won't buy a 130K car that can get outperformed by a 60-70K car. It's that simple. No one cares how much lighter it is.

  • Report this Comment On February 08, 2014, at 11:30 PM, chrischamb1 wrote:

    Please....another stupid senseless article by Katie (I love BMW) Spence. This BMW costs 70% MORE than the Tesla to start with, will cost 300% MORE to maintain, only seats 4 (vs 7) has 30% of the cargo space! But's gonna give Telsa a run for its money??? Really?? Everyone who's reading this, I'll tell you what: Invest $10,000 in both companies on Monday. Then, in five years, let's see which investment has done better.......Need I say more??

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 2:03 AM, TeslaFan wrote:

    Would you like the perspective of a 1) Tesla Model S owner and 2) sports car fanatic? I've had my P85 for exactly one year. I still love it. I still prefer to drive it over my Ferrari or Audi. I am still awed by its sickening acceleration (and I've had lots of very fast cars -- nothing compares to a P85). I am still in love with its simplicity of operation: no transmission, no oil changes, no maintenance required, no gas station visits. Just pull into the garage and plug it in. And I've come to love some unexpected features, such as being able to warm it up from afar (in the airport parking garage, at work, etc.) by getting on the Tesla app on my phone. With snow tires the Model S is unstoppable even this winter in Denver. And the storage capacity is unbelievable -- it has more interior space than my wife's Infiniti QX56. Yes, I love the Model S. So much that I have a deposit down on the Model X and will promptly eradicate my garage of my wife's gargantuan gas-guzzler when the X is delivered this fall. I think there is a POSSIBILITY I might trade my Model S for an i8. But probably only if BMW sheds the gas engine and move toward a purely electric vehicle. Now that I've had a Tesla for a year, I simply cannot stand cars with gasoline and exhausts and transmissions and all the mechanical hoopla that gasoline cars require. Pure lectric propulsion is just superior in every way.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 2:22 AM, speculawyer wrote:

    LOL. No. The i8 is one of the few cars that makes the Tesla Model S look like a great bargain!

    Kick gas.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 2:55 AM, weiyan5555 wrote:

    Is this a joke? 22 miles range with 75 mph top speed? Gl selling 10000 of those at 140k+. Seriously, for that price you could not get better performance or longer range? This is just sad. BMW is so far behind in technology.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 7:09 AM, RobertFaheyJr wrote:

    Remember, the Toyota Prius has always danced away from pretenders since 1997. If anything, weak or off-target competition bolsters the position of the leader in the public consciousness. People know the Beatles from the Monkees, even decades later.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 9:58 AM, Johnny04 wrote:

    The i8 should be compared to a gas-powered, not an electric car. 22 mile range is child play compared to Model S.

    Two doors? Seriously? Tesla tries to have Falcon wings for model X so customers can get into the car easily, and here the i8 has four seats but 2 doors.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 10:35 AM, DrDauger wrote:

    BMW's i8's competition is not Tesla but the Fisker Karma:

    Does anybody remember Fisker? Of course not because that attempt at a high-end PHEV utterly failed and, with some bad luck, led to an embarrassing bankruptcy for Fisker.

    I see every reason for the i8 to share Karma's fate: a financial failure. Both are tepid, incremental attempts that lack the boldness of the Tesla to fully embrace the advantages of an electric powertrain. Anything less will be given a collective "meh" and polite "golf clap" by this high-end market.

    My previous car was a 2001 BMW M3, then after a year in my Tesla Model S P85, while I still respect BMW as a company, I can confirm @TeslaFan's assessment: Tesla makes any car with a gas engine feel utterly antiquated, a product of a bygone era, like an unnecessarily-complicated noisy rattling jerky jalopy.

    Tesla, someday, will turn your world around, as it has for me: I keep my M3, the gas car, as the nostalgic but impractical toy, and the Tesla is my primary vehicle of driving enjoyment for me (speed!) and my family.

    As for range anxiety, what range anxiety? From my OC home, I've driven round trips to San Diego and Lake Arrowhead and back using just one charge in my S. I've also used the Supercharger network to go to San Francisco and back:

    and the experience makes me itch to explore the country with the 74 and counting Supercharger station spanning the country:

    I urge anyone to test ride or drive a Tesla Model S. It's 21st century driving and puts anything gas-powered to shame.

  • Report this Comment On May 14, 2014, at 6:30 AM, melissabrittany wrote:

    Guys its amazing that i8’s BMW top speed of 155 mph and 4.4 second 0-60mph time exceeds the Model S’s top speed of 125 mph and 5.4 second sprint from 0-60mph. See More:

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Katie Spence

Katie Spence has been a financial journalist for The Fool since 2011. She specializes in defense companies, “green" technology, autos, and robots. Follow her on Twitter for breaking news in the defense, auto, and robot industry.

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