New BMW X6 as a spectacular show car: world’s first vehicle in Vantablack®.

BMW:New BMW X6 as a spectacular show car: world’s first vehicle in Vantablack®.

Munich. This September, the Frankfurt Motor Show will
provide the backdrop for the world premiere of the third-generation
BMW X6 (fuel consumption combined: 10.7–6.1 l/100 km; CO2
emissions combined: 243–159 g/km)*, the car that established the
Sports Activity Coupé segment a good ten years ago. At the event, BMW
will also present a spectacular one-off vehicle with a
Vantablack® VBx2 nanostructure paint finish that highlights
the expressive design language and confident, dominant and muscular
appearance of the new BMW X6 to perfection. This exclusive show car is
the result of a collaboration between BMW and Surrey NanoSystems, the
inventors of the Vantablack technology.

The BMW X6 is the first and only vehicle in the world to feature a
Vantablack VBx2 paint finish. “We turned down numerous requests from
various automobile manufacturers in the past,” explains Ben Jensen,
founder and Chief Technical Officer of Surrey NanoSystems. “It took
the BMW X6 and its unique, expressive design for us to entertain the
idea.” With design highlights like the optional Iconic Glow kidney
grille, distinctive twin headlights and striking taillights, the new
BMW X6 provides fascinating contrasts to offset the Vantablack VBx2
paint finish, which changes the viewer’s visual perception of an
object’s three-dimensional shape.

The human eye perceives Vantablack as two-dimensional.

A surface coated in Vantablack loses its defining features to
the human eye, with objects appearing two-dimensional. This can be
interpreted by the brain as staring into a hole or even a void, making
Vantablack a rather unsuitable vehicle paint finish, as it blots out
virtually all the design details and highlights. For this reason, the
BMW X6 was coated in the VBx2 variant initially developed for use in
architectural and scientific applications. This coating can be sprayed
on and has a one-per-cent total hemispherical reflectance (THR),
meaning it is still considered “super black” while enabling a small
amount of reflection from every angle. Thus, materials painted with it
seem to lose their three-dimensional appearance – as demonstrated
impressively on the BMW X6.

Vantablack: the “blackest black”, developed for aerospace applications.

The name Vantablack has already become synonymous with an entire
range of extremely black coatings and paints such as VBx2. It contains
an acronym of the technology enabling this superior black in its first
two syllables, which stand for Vertically
Aligned Nano Tube
Array, a matrix made out of carbon. Each of these
carbon nanotubes has a length of 14 to 50 micrometres, with a diameter
of 20 nanometres, making it around 5,000 times thinner than a human
hair. As a result, around a billion of these vertically aligned carbon
nanotubes fit into one square centimetre. Any light striking this
surface is almost completely absorbed rather than reflected, and
effectively converted into heat.

This technology was initially developed for coating space-borne
components. As Vantablack can be applied at temperatures from as low
as 430 degrees Celsius, it is suitable for delicate materials such as
aluminium, and optical components coated in Vantablack enable
observation of faint stars and distant galaxies that stray light from
the sun makes difficult to detect. The first generation of Vantablack
introduced by Surrey NanoSystems in 2014 absorbed up to 99.965 per
cent of light, almost completely eliminating reflectance and stray light.

An interview with Ben Jensen, Vantablack inventor and founder
of Surrey NanoSystems.

What was your first thought when you were approached with the
idea of providing the BMW X6 with a Vantablack paint finish?

Ben Jensen: To be honest, we received inquiries from
most of the big-name automotive manufacturers, almost from the day we
launched the original material in 2014, but we’d always said no. This
was also due to the fact that we only had a suitable material once we
came up with VBx2. When we were approached by BMW, we were still quite
hesitant to begin with. But the new X6 looked so incredibly different
that it just felt like a really good fit.

Have your expectations been met?

Jensen: I think it went beyond all our expectations.
The BMW X6 in Vantablack looks absolutely fantastic. We also realised
that it wouldn’t have worked if we’d put on the original material, as
the viewer would have lost all sense of three-dimensionality. VBx2
with its one-per-cent reflectance provides just enough of a hint of
shape. Add to that the contrast between the matt black surface and
details such as the Iconic Glow kidney grille, the headlights and the
windows – everything is just set off beautifully.

Hypothetically speaking, could you imagine Vantablack VBx2
becoming a regular paint finish option for people buying a car in
the future?

Jensen: I think it worked really well on the BMW X6,
because of the size of the car, its distinctive shape, and how
imposing it is. But putting a paint like that on a conventional car
lacking a distinctive design would probably detract from it in some
way. In addition, developing a Vantablack VBx2 car paint durable
enough for daily use is a huge technological challenge.

However, Vantablack already has an important role in advanced
automotive technology …

Jensen: Indeed, the material is now being used more
and more in various types of, laser-based sensor equipment for driver
assistance systems and technologies for autonomous driving, for
instance. That is because incident sunlight can cause a degradation of
performance in these systems as well. A Vantablack coating eliminates
these issues and results in increased safety.

An interview with Hussein Al Attar, Creative Director
Automotive Design at Designworks and the designer responsible for
the new BMW X6.

What does it mean to you that “your” BMW X6 is the first car
in the world to have been chosen for such a project by the makers of Vantablack?

Al Attar: I first heard about Vantablack a few years
ago – and I’ve been absolutely fascinated with the technology ever
since. So, for me personally, this is a big deal. When my colleagues
told me about a possible collaboration some months ago, I was very excited.

What makes the BMW X6 the perfect car for this project?

Al Attar: Internally, we often refer to the BMW X6 as
“The Beast.” I think that says it all. The Vantablack VBx2 finish
emphasises this aspect and makes the BMW X6 look particularly
menacing. Moreover, the BMW X6 has always been the most provocative
and in-your-face model in our portfolio. So why not emphasise this
even further, with a finish that simply captivates the viewer’s
attention? After all, that’s what the BMW X6 has always been about.

But a Vantablack finish makes objects appear two-dimensional.
Doesn’t that render it supremely unsuitable as a car paint,
especially for a car with a design as expressive as the BMW X6?

Al Attar: Yes, there is a certain inherent
contradiction. But that’s exactly what makes this interesting and
explains why the BMW X6 is the perfect car for this project. In
addition, Vantablack VBx2 opens up new possibilities for us as
designers. We often prefer to talk about silhouettes and proportions
rather than surfaces and lines. 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.

Hypothetically speaking, could you imagine Vantablack VBx2
becoming a regular paint finish option for people buying a car in
the future?

Al Attar: Absolutely. BMW X6 drivers are among our
most extrovert and free-spirited customers. If anyone were to opt for
a Vantablack paint option, it would definitely be a BMW X6 driver.

Third-generation BMW X6 to start in November 2019.

The latest incarnation of the car that established the
innovative and distinctive Sports Activity Coupé (SAC) segment will
have its world premiere at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, from 12 to
22 September. The showroom launch will begin shortly afterwards, in
November 2019. The third-generation BMW X6 employs a precise and
exclusive design language to underscore its confident, dominant
appearance. In addition, its advanced powertrain and chassis
technology combines with numerous innovations to provide a uniquely
sporty yet luxurious driving experience. Like its predecessors, the
new BMW X6 is produced at the BMW plant in Spartanburg in the United States.

Original Press Release