When the Rollling Stones penned “Paint It Black,” they had no idea that half a century later, BMW would indeed, do just that.
Presenting a one-off version of the third-generatrion X6 SUV in Vantablack paint — in which carbon nanotubes are used to create one of the darkest substances on Earth — essentially, an SUV you can hardly see.
Which, I suppose, does set it apart from luxury marques such Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and even Ferrari. The German automotive giant will display it at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
BMW tapped Surrey NanoSystems, the company that stumbled onto “light eating” Vantablack a few years ago, to cover one of its new X6s in a newer version of the substance called VBX2, the Verge reported. To put it simply, the pigment uses tiny carbon nanotubes to absorb up to 99.965% of light striking its surface.
This Vantablack variant allows for the slightest bit of light reflection while remaining “super black,” according to Surrey NanoSystems founder Ben Jensen. The “vanta” stands for Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array.
Originally designed to be used in outer space, vantablack can be applied at temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing. It has also been used in space cameras to block out light from the sun, letting the devices take clearer photos of distant stars and galaxies, Forbes reported.
While Jensen says that should make it possible for a human’s eyes and brain to process some depth information, the Vantablack X6 looks like a two-dimensional lump of an SUV in the press photos, or a bad fan rendering. (It also conveniently helps BMW show off its new light-up grille.)
Still, the Vantablack X6 is likely to cause a stir in Frankfurt. The paint is, by all accounts, a transfixing thing to look at.
Journalist Mark Wilson, of Fast Company, described it like this: “At Google’s top secret materials lab, I recently gazed upon a sample of Vantablack in real life for the first time. It almost broke my brain. It has no reflection, no contours. It’s like part of the world has been Photoshopped away. Stare at it long enough, and it feels like your soul is being sucked out of your eyeballs.”
Hussein Al-Attar, the X6’s designer, said in a wonderfully choreographed interview that he could see it becoming an actual paint option on the new SUV, because “X6 drivers are among our most extrovert and free-spirited customers.”
If BMW did go ahead with it, the Vantablack paint would certainly distinguish the SUV from the crowded field of competitors.
However, safety studies show that regular black cars are already more dangerous to drive over lighter-colored cars — the chances of crashing a black car at dawn and dusk are 47% higher than that of a non-black car, Forbes reported.