Making its first global appearance in Beijing is the BMW i8 Spyder Concept, which is an open top variant of the i8 plug-in hybrid that first debuted at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.

It is the third variation of the i8 to be launched so far, but the first to feature the eDrive emblem on the rear. It will be a badge that all future BMW i models with an electric motor, lithium-ion battery and motor management system will proudly carry.

The i8 Spyder’s hybrid powertrain remains unchanged from its coupe sister’s – an electric motor powers the front wheels while a 1.5 litre three-cylinder petrol engine powers the rear wheels. Total output is 350 hp and top speed is limited at 250 km/h.

It is, however, slightly shorter both in wheelbase and overall length than the coupe. Also, due to its roll-over hoops and solid metal doors, the i8 Spyder is 100 kg heavier than the coupe, and therefore takes five seconds to sprint to 100 km/h, compared to the coupe’s 4.6. Not so significant then, as shortcomings go.

A long and flat 7.2 kWh lithium-ion battery along the bottom length of the car gives it a front/rear weight distribution of nearly 50:50, as well as a range of 35 km on electric power alone. A full charge takes two hours.

BMW says it plans to have the i8 in production by 2014.