Sure your blacked-out ride looks pretty cool. You got the black trim from the factory, maybe the black paint or black vinyl, and even black wheels. But your car isn't this black. Ths BMW X6 is finished in the (second) blackest black paint in the world.
To show off the new X6, BMW is presenting one of them clad in a material called Vantablack. It's the only vehicle in the world to use the nanostructure paint finish. The Vantablack surface reflects so little light that it makes the car look 2D instead of 3D. It looks like when a manufacturer website hasn't filled in the rendering of the vehicle on the configurator page just yet. It's a hole that used to be a vehicle but is now nearly completely devoid of light.
Which sure is a strange way to show off the "expressive design language and confident, dominant, and muscular appearance" of the new X6.
It's the first time the manufacturer, Surrey NanoSystems, has allowed the finish on a vehicle. "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.”
Vantablack (the name stands for Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array) is a matrix of carbon nanotubes. The tubes absorb light and turn it into heat. Making this one hot ride, we presume. It was originally designed to be sent into space and stop reflections from such light sources as the sun. It's also used, in a more terrestrial setting, on laser-based sensors for driver-assistance tech and autonomous driving, Jensen says.
The Vantablack VBx2 material that BMW used is actually less light-absorbing than the original finish. "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-percent reflectance provides just enough of a hint of shape," said Jensen. So it's not the blackest paint, but it's the blackest paint that's ever been used on a vehicle.
Don't worry about stumbling into this X6 on a dark back-road. It's still got the normal array of lights and reflectors. And BMW's new light-up Iconic Glow kidney grille to shine the way, all Rudolph-like, in the dark. So you should be able to see it.
Is this going to become the new matte grey? Probably not. Jensen says that it's a huge challenge to make a version of the paint that would be durable enough for a car. The more conventionally shaded X6 starts to arrive in showrooms around the world in November.