BMW Introduces Concept Cars That Change Color With the Push of a Button

Like the offerings of most luxury automakers, the names of BMW models and trim levels can sometimes be a mouthful. Unless you’re intimately familiar with the array of numbers and made-up words that represent engine power and features, the names are also likely completely meaningless to the average person.

Well, BMW has a couple new mouthfuls in the mix, the iX Flow featuring E Ink and the i Vision Dee concept cars. As usual, the names don’t tell you much about them. These two, though, are a feast for the eyes unlike any other BMW, and any other car, out there.

BMW is known for using its concept cars to push the limits of aesthetics, like the Vantablack X6, the world’s first and only vehicle with a light-absorbing Vantablack coating. Let’s take a look at these cars and see how E Ink makes them unique.

How Does a Car Change Color?

The color-changing technology isn’t paint; instead, it’s kind of a combination of a wrap (think of a car covered in vinyl advertising graphics) and a really advanced version of an e-reader screen (like a Kindle or Nook). The wrap is super-thin, designed to adhere precisely to the dimensions of the fully electric SUV tasked with showcasing this technology, and cut with lasers to fit each body panel perfectly. According to BMW’s announcement, the wrap “contains many millions of microcapsules, with a diameter equivalent to the thickness of a single human hair.” Each capsule contains negatively charged white pigment and positively charged black pigment; apply electricity to switch the charge, and the pigments change places to change the car’s color.

BMW Introduces Two Color-changing Models

The first version of the iX Flow was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in early 2022. It was announced as “the world’s first color-changing car,” though that early version of BMW’s technology changed only from black to white. For the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show, BMW showed off a new version of the technology on a different concept car, a sedan called the i Vision Dee. This BMW is not only capable of 32 different colors, but the wrap consists of 240 individual segments that can be controlled individually. In other words, it’s capable of “an almost infinite variety of patterns,” according to BMW, which can be changed in just seconds.

Are Color-changing Cars Environmentally Friendly?

Despite the labor- and laser-intensive process that goes into creating the color-changing skin, BMW says that “E Ink technology itself is extremely energy efficient,” because the technology draws power only when the actual color change process is happening, and it doesn’t need to draw power to maintain a color change. That claim tracks — that’s why basic e-reader devices tend to have an impressive battery life, as long as they’re used only for reading rather than video or music.

Furthermore, BMW says that a car equipped with the E Ink color-changing technology can actually make the car itself more energy-efficient — think about turning your car white or another light color during summer to help reflect the sun’s rays and keep the inside cool and changing to black or another dark color during winter to absorb sunlight and help warm up the cabin. Studies show that translates to energy savings since you’ll rely less on the car’s climate control systems.

Of course, you’re wondering, will BMW ever sell cars that can change colors? Considering BMWs like the Vantablack concept will never be produced and sold, it’s okay to be skeptical. BMW says that right now, it’s an in-house project, meaning that they’re simply testing and refining the technology, with a focus on making the panels resistant to everyday damage like car washes and road debris; any impact to a panel renders it unusable. Cost is obviously a concern, as well. Yet BMW has hinted it may be more plausible than we think.

If you have an e-reader or a smartwatch, you’re probably familiar with the concept of E ink, but did you know it all comes from one company? BMW’s projects are the first time that E Ink Corporation, based outside of Boston, Massachusetts, has applied its technology to a car, and the latest versions of e-ink displays can be made in any shape for infinite design and manufacturing possibilities.

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