Topline: BMW rolled out its first vehicle painted with “vantablack”, known as the world’s blackest black—and although the company claims it would like to see the car on the road, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
- The BMW X6 was selected as the first vehicle to receive the inky-black paint job and will debut in September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
- Vantablack in its purest form absorbs all light, without reflecting any back.
- To make sure the X6 didn’t appear completely two-dimensional, the vantablack paint used on it reflects back 1% of light.
- Although X6 designer Hussein Al Attar said he “absolutely” could see vantablack joining BMW’s lineup of color options for car buyers, the automaker has no immediate plans.
- According to Ben Jensen, CTO of vantablack developer Surrey Nanosystems, “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.”
Chief critic: Auto enthusiasts. They question why a car needs to be painted with vantablack, especially since it won’t be for sale anytime soon. And safety studies show that regular black cars are already more dangerous to drive over lighter-colored cars—chances of crashing a black car at dawn and dusk are 47% higher than that of a non-black car.
Key background: Developed by Surrey Nanosystems in 2014, the pigment in vantablack is made from tiny bits of carbon. 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.
Surprising fact: The “vanta” in vantablack stands for Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array.