How BMW’s LifeDrive Is Like the World’s Most Advanced Electric SkateboardS

LifeDrive isn't just any carbon fiber shell. It's the world's first automotive body specifically designed and purpose-built for the series production of electric cars — and the architecture underneath the gorgeously fluid skin of BMW's new i3 and i8 electric Concept cars. LifeDrive is innovative, lightweight, and smartly engineered. It's also kinda like a giant skateboard. Here's why.

Every electric car from a major automaker suffers from the same problem. None of them started life as an electric car. They're "conversion" vehicles — cars originally designed with gas-guzzlin' internal combustion engines that have been repurposed for all-electric use. The result is the electric drivetrain and battery pack get shoehorned into wherever they'll fit. That means more weight, more complexity, and less efficiency.

Well, until now.

The LifeDrive was built from the ground up for an electric motor and battery — allowing both to live together in BMW's i cars in perfect carbon fiber-ensconced harmony.

The architecture of the LifeDrive is comprised of two separate independent functional units designed to mate together like peanut butter and jelly. The upper module — called "Life" — is a high-strength and light-as-a-feather passenger cell made from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, or CFRP. How light? How about 50% lighter than steel. In fact, it's so light Formula One uses it in just about every part of the car they can get away with. But it's also rigid enough to serve as the cockpit of a Formula One car — just like it does in BMW's i cars. Pretty cool, right?

Here is the CFRP Life module unmated to the Drive "skateboard."

How BMW’s LifeDrive Is Like the World’s Most Advanced Electric SkateboardS

But it's the lower module — called Drive — that takes the coolness cake. All of the car's weighty stuff – BMW's eDrive technology, battery pack, and suspension are packed into the aluminum Drive module. giving the car optimum weight distribution and a low centre of gravity.

It also looks, basically, like the world's most technologically-advanced, electric-powered skateboard. How cool would it be to ride it like one? Hell, if I could slap on a seat, a steering wheel, and some pedals — I'd make it my daily driver in a second.


Ray Wert was the Editor-in-Chief of Jalopnik, Gawker Media's automotive lifestyle site, for six years.

Photo by Andrew Link.