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An ocean of ideas: This is particularly true of automotive engineering when it comes to developing a new model, a new platform or the new direction of the brand, as with the Neue Klasse from BMW. The goal? To think outside the box, but with a firm trajectory in mind. For example, the BMW i7 (➜ Read more: The BMW i7 – a new perspective) recently reinterpreted the notion of luxury: sustainably innovative.
But what if you could transfer this luxurious, yet emission-free form of transport from the road to a new element – let’s say, to the water as we mentioned at the beginning? BMW, together with world-leading experts and boat builder TYDE, has dared to do just that with THE ICON. And besides batteries, it has contributed its technical expertise for the construction of a completely new watercraft.
Just as the tides are created by the interaction of the earth and the moon, the interplay of two factors was crucial in this shared vision: a focus on innovation and the joy of sustainable mobility.
Because, as Peter Dengler, head of THE ICON project, points out, this can be made possible in all segments. “Mobility on water is nearly ten times more energy-intensive than mobility on land. In the meantime, however, professional sailing has come up with solutions for substantially saving energy, paving the way for climate-friendly solutions. The decarbonization of mobility is already taking place in some areas. In other areas, however, there has not yet been innovation, so decarbonization has not even begun. There is currently no equivalent of luxury electric vehicles like the BMW i7 M70 offered on the water.”
He saw an extraordinary fascination in that visionary triad of sustainability, luxury and conscious pleasure: “Our team was particularly driven by the idea of creating the magical combination of innovation, digitalization and the relationship between people and technology, but most importantly, an incomparable zero-emission experience for the water.” What does the new mobility on the water look like? “The same characteristics found in BMW luxury vehicles like the BMW i7 M70 will be key in this element too: maximum sustainability combined with design, innovation and a unique driving experience.”
The team broke free from the shackles of established development and design conventions right from the start. They deliberately set out not to design a boat, but rather create their own experience on the water. BMW has had trailblazing experience and long-standing involvement in sailing sports such as the premier class America’s Cup, the Formula 1 equivalent of boat racing.
A team of engineers built the first bridge between nautical technology and the most advanced electric mobility. Leading experts from all over the world were brought on board for this – including Guillaume Verdier, the world’s leading designer of the fastest and most efficient sailboats and responsible for the hull and hydrofoil of the last winning boat in the America’s Cup.
and the technical milestones
TYDE, a new, progressive lifestyle tech company and provider of experiences for luxury mobility at sea, was also at the rudder of this intelligent transfer of technology and expertise in the development of THE ICON. Dr. Christoph Ballin, the longstanding CEO of electric mobility pioneer Torqeedo, was instrumental in making electric mobility on the water fit for everyday use. Tobias Hoffritz is already a long-standing partner of BMW for technology and innovation projects with his company Second Sphere.
Developing the first maritime luxury electric vehicle has been an exciting journey for both: “THE ICON has a wealth of groundbreaking innovations on board that are suitable for anchoring climate-friendly mobility in the high-end segment as well. The yacht is available as a series product, and the technology platform developed means the model range can easily be expanded.”
delivers up to 80-percent energy saving
Foiling, a technology that delivers up to 80-percent energy saving, is a pioneering technical development that supports the sustainability goals of the new watercraft. This means BMW i batteries (➜ Read more: the material cycle of a battery cell) can be used as a power source. How does that work? Foils consist of a stabilizing fin and two wings. They act like underwater wings that allow the watercraft to literally hover over the water – enabling THE ICON to be electrified by the power of BMW batteries alone.
The upper-side curvature creates a negative pressure, generating buoyancy. Water resistance on the hull is no longer a factor. The craft is lifted out of the water, reducing the resistance to a minimum – the watercraft literally hovers over the water. Two propellers on the rear foil provide propulsion for THE ICON. It takes between 10 and 12 seconds from startup to hovering. Flying about one meter above the water, feeling no wave impact at all feels exactly the same as comfortably gliding in the rear of the BMW i7 (➜ Read more: Theater screen in the BMW i7) on the road.
between people and technology
Dengler and Hoffritz found the interface was much more advanced in cars than on yachts. As a result, all maritime controls and navigation displays were bundled into a single control interface. “The intuitive, integrated user interface, based on the BMW ID8 operating system and a touch-sensitive display, delivers an automotive standard in boating,” explains Dengler. This ensures that operation is intuitive and integrative and can also be controlled interactively via voice commands.
Because the interpretation of modern luxury embraces all the senses, the technical innovations in the development and design of this new mobility concept, both below and above water, go hand in hand with a design that impressively combines esthetics and function. Designworks (➜ Read more: 50 years of Designworks), the BMW innovation studio, has already served as a creative partner on land in the design of the BMW i3 and BMW i8 and in the air with the electric wingsuit (➜ Read more: The making of the wingsuit with e-motor).
Water was yet another element to provide an exciting challenge for the Designworks team led by Tom Allemeier and Tommy Forsgren. The BMW Group subsidiary has earned a reputation over 50 years for designing mobility concepts for tomorrow – from road to rail and water to air.
When designing THE ICON, the design team was not looking to design a boat, but a new experience on the water. “We have developed a new design approach for a watercraft that is not exposed to waves but flies over the water with the help of foils,” said Tom Allemeier, Director of Design at Designworks. “So instead of the conventional side of the ship, a ceiling-high panorama window forms the outer facade. The result for passengers inside is a whole new experience with an unobstructed view – a luxurious ‘Infinite Space View’. This makes the view across the deck seem endless, merging with the water and the horizon,” says Allemeier. The architecture is supported by what is known as a center spline, an iconic strut that extends centrally from the stern over the roof to the bow. With so much technological innovation, the design process was also unorthodox.
There was a lot of digital technology involved. We were able to use VR glasses to experience the space and see how the perspectives worked before the built model was ready.
Lead Designer on the Munich-based Designworks team
The expressive design language on the exterior is also reflected in the interior. The materials used evoke the feel of an elegant salon, the design language of a modern luxury lounge. Each passenger takes a seat in their own swiveling chair, including their own infotainment interface. A high-end DOLBY ATMOS audio system is on board. The interior space is promoted into a living space.
Where else can this technology transfer lead? Dengler and Ballin are upbeat about the development of future maritime mobility: “Solutions developed as part of THE ICON project will be used for various vehicles and applications to follow in the wake of THE ICON: from advanced private luxury to premium commercial and public mobility. THE ICON and its successors will inspire zero-emission luxury mobility at sea and open a new segment for sustainable luxury yachts.”
Author: Markus Löblein; Art: Verena Aichinger, Lucas Lemuth, Ha My Le Thi; Photos & Video: BMW