Photo courtesy of BMW
It was May in France, and from the ocean a glittering spectacle larger than a whale shark skimmed silently across the surface at nearly 35 miles per hour. It seemed to hover above the water, and while it debuted during the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, it wasn’t a creature drawn from the imagination of a budding screenwriter or director. In fact, it had nothing to do with film, although it does seem a little bit sci-fi.
While industry professionals were rubbing elbows and filmmakers were airing their latest creations, out on the water BMW and Tyde were introducing the Icon, a battery driven, hydrofoil yacht that is a harbinger of an eco-future. This futuristic completely carbon-emissions-free craft was designed by BMW’s California-based subsidiary Designworks, and was developed and brought to fruition by Tyde, the innovative German boat manufacturer.
The Icon is 43 feet long with a top-end speed of just under 35 miles per hour. The flat trimaran hull combined with hydrofoil technology makes the boat appear to float above the water at top speeds. But this isn’t merely a striking illusion. The cushion of air produced beneath the vessel increases speed by reducing drag, which also results in less fuel consumption. The two 100 KW motors are driven by six BMW battery packs borrowed from the company’s i3 series, resulting in a range of roughly 50 nautical miles on a charge and a nearly silent ride because of the electrically driven motors.
The interior, too, seems otherworldly with a cabin enclosed in large panels of glass that offer a nearly 360 degree view of the yacht’s surroundings. Interior furnishings have been designed from a grainy metal that reflects the abundant sunlight flowing through the windows to reflect light around the cabin like sun glinting on water. The centerpiece of the helm is “a 32-inch touch digital control unit with 6k resolution that has been designed to look and feel like the BMW iDrive operating system.” As a further futuristic touch, BMW employed film composer Hans Zimmer to design an onboard soundscape presented through a Dolby Atmos sound system.
The Icon is part of the BMW group’s work with universities, organizations, and companies to “re-imagine urban mobility in a more sustainable form.” The creators describe the vessel “as a series product with pioneering technology for private or even commercial use” meant to “to inspire CO2 -free mobility at sea” They see the innovative design as way to not only bring eco awareness to an industry where Tyde says, “many segments of marine mobility are still operating 100 percent on fossil fuels,” but also to provide alternatives for travel that reduce noise pollution, lessen carbon footprint, and decrease the potential for hazardous spills.
For now the Icon is more prototype than practical. But true to its name, it acts as an icon of a future free from climate warming emissions; a quieter and more efficient future; a world where sci-fi turns reality, offering an alternative to the film genre’s apocalyptic ending.
Written by Ivan Young