BMW to unveil ‘beastly’ new Vantablack show car

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BMW's new X6 show car will feature the futuristic Vantablack coating.
Image: BMW

Heads up, Batman lovers. BMW is set to premiere a stealthy new show car that challenges the sleek, crime-busting design of the Batmobile. Unlike the Dark Knight’s fictional gadget-wielding Gotham City transport, the BMW X6 boasts the eerie Vantablack® VBx2 coating on a real car.

The one-of-a-kind auto is the product of a collaboration between BMW and the creator of Vantablack technology, Surrey NanoSystems. The German multinational automaker is unveiling the “black beast” at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, according to a press release.

So Black it Almost ‘Disappears’

Vantablack coating is so black that the objects it covers seem to disappear. It is a “forest” made up of “millions upon millions of incredibly small carbon nanotubes.”

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To put the size in perspective, each of Vantablack’s nanotubes is about 3,500 times smaller than the diameter of an average human hair. Guinness Book of World Records once recognized the material as the “darkest manmade substance.”

The coating is nearly impossible to see. Many describe looking at it like staring into a black hole. This rare visual effect occurs because Vantablack barely reflects any light that strikes its surface. It makes sense that the science fiction-like substance is used in aerospace applications.

It’s also easy to understand why this “ultra-black” property excites many car enthusiasts.

Impressive Finish

Let’s face it, cruising around in a nearly invisible car would be awesome. The spacy, three-dimensional effect is impressive. As such, Surrey fielded Vantablack requests from many top automakers when it launched the material in 2014.

However, the firm had to adapt the original substance and produce a new VBx2 material to spray onto the BMW X6 show car. The new version reflects about one percent of light whereas the original formula absorbs 99.965 percent.

“It wouldn’t have worked if we’d put on the original material, as the viewer would have lost all sense of three-dimensionality,” said Ben Jensen, Vantablack inventor and founder of Surrey NanoSystems, in a press release interview. “VBx2, with its one-percent reflectance provides just enough of a hint of shape. Add to that the contrast between the matte black surface and details such as the Iconic Glow kidney grille, the headlights, and the windows – everything is just set off beautifully.”

Jensen also noted that laser-based sensor equipment for autonomous driving applications features the cutting-edge material. The coating helps eliminate sunlight-induced performance issues and increases safety.

Creative director of automotive design at Designworks and BMW X6 designer Hussein Al-Attar thinks that the new model is the perfect choice for the Vantablack finish. He addressed the boundary-pushing design potential of the VBx2 coating.

“We often prefer to talk about silhouettes and proportions rather than surfaces and lines,” Al-Attar explained. “The Vantablack VBx2 coating foregrounds these fundamental aspects of automotive design, without any distraction from light and reflections. I am very proud of how beautiful the new BMW X6 has turned out, including its bold and expressive surfaces. But the most remarkable evolution over the predecessor concerns its proportions. And that is precisely what Vantablack underscores, albeit in a rather unexpected fashion.”

‘Impractical’ and Improbable Future

Unfortunately, Vantablack is impractical as a future paint finish option on mass-produced vehicles. This means that the exclusive BMW X6 VBx2 model will most likely be a car show one-off.

According to information on Surrey’s website, “the limitations of Vantablack in respect of direct impact or abrasion would make this an impractical proposition for most people. It would also be incredibly expensive.”

Automobile aficionados can catch a glimpse of BMW’s “beast” in all of its Vantablack glory at the Frankfurt Motor Show, which takes place in Frankfurt, Germany from September 12-22.