BMW's panoramic electric hydrofoil soars above the waters of Cannes
The all-new Icon electric hydrofoil looks far more like a design project than a BMW, but in fact, it's both. A collaboration between BMW Group Designworks, German boat builder TYDE, and Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, the vessel could certainly make an impressive movie prop, but instead it debuts in real life on the waters just outside the 76th Cannes Film Festival.
The Icon features enough BMW i battery power for up to 50 nautical miles (93 km), a trio of hydrofoils for quiet, efficient and fast cruising, and more than enough windows for paparazzi-grade celebrity gawking.
Technically this vessel is called THE ICON by its creators, but that's just way too pretentious to acknowledge more than once, so we'll stick with Icon. And we're not sure it's so much an icon as a maverick, a design renegade even within the nascent world of electric hydrofoils, where unusual styling still reigns.
The Icon looks more like a piece of dramatic land architecture with aircraft-inspired elements than it does a boat. Its oversized, prism-like glasshouse comes sandwiched between a plinth of a hull and winglike roof colored in a distinctive shade of contrasting green. The near symmetry created by the tall stern fin and similarly angled creased bow serves to contain an utter lack of symmetry in between.
The Icon's arresting styling isn't merely for show from the outside, as the design is meant to offer a singular experience on board. The windows, of course, provide incomparable views as far as the eye can see, and the downward-facing lower panels promise to play perfectly with the high ride of the foiling system. Meanwhile, the triangular broadening from bow to stern opens up a 14.7-ft-wide (4.5-m) entry to the aft lounge, also covered from floor to ceiling in glass.
Inside, the aft salon features angular furniture every bit as avant garde as the vessel itself. Reflective bases redirect the natural light flooding through the windows onto the carpet for a dazzling kaleidoscope-like show. The seats rotate 360 degrees to encourage socialization and flexibility in viewing angle.
The arrangement of furniture follows the craft's triangular form, as the generously furnished salon gives way to a dramatic single-seat command station and small fore lounge. Ordinarily, a large, solid crease positioned directly in front of the captain's chair would be a design dealbreaker, but the Icon's angled full-height windows just port and starboard of that crease appear to provide sufficient visibility.
BMW brings some automotive inspiration to the helm, where a digital command center replaces traditional nautical controls. A race-inspired wheel sits just aft and below of an oversized 32-in 6K HMI touchscreen running BMW Operating System 8 for intuitive, luxury car-derived controls. The digital information presentation and voice commands are reminiscent of a being on the road, inside an electric BMW.
The Icon carries six BMW i batteries totaling 240 kWh. Combine that power stack with the drag-reducing foils and a pair of 100-kW motors, and the 43.14-ft (13.14-m) vessel is able to travel up to 50 nautical miles (93 km) per charge and hit a top speed of 30 knots (56 km/h). Cruising speed sits at 24 knots (44 km/h).
As for Hans Zimmer's role in the design, the frequent BMW collaborator developed the soundtrack for the voyage, which passengers can enjoy over the vessel-wide Dolby Atmos system. A tablet control system lets passengers adjust audio settings and other infotainment features.
While the Icon looks more like movie-bound fantasy, BMW classifies the Cannes debut as production-ready. It says the boat is underpinned by a readily adaptable platform that can be adjusted around buyers' needs, whether commercial or private.
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Maybe a somewhat larger version, with a few more amenities, might be appropriate.