BMW made a surprising reveal at the Consumer Electronics Show this year when it unveiled an updated version of its electric iX Flow concept SUV that is capable of changing colour from black to white at a touch of a button.
The advanced colour changing technology known as E Ink has been added to the BMW iX Flow to allow a driver to change the car’s colour to either white or black depending on their mood and to also conserve electricity.
The iX Flow was presented at CES as part of a digital programme live-streamed from Germany and, according to BMW, is “the first car in the world whose exterior colour can be changed at the touch of a button”.
BMW says that the iX Flow concept SUV is wrapped in a ‘digital paper’ that allows fluid colour changes which are made possible by a specially developed body wrap and are prompted by an electrical impulse, making it possible for the driver to match their car to their personal style or the weather.
“Digital experiences won’t just be limited to displays in the future. There will be more and more melding of the real and virtual. With the BMW iX Flow, we are bringing the car body to life,” said Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development.
According to BMW, the innovative E Ink technology “opens completely new ways of changing the vehicle’s appearance” in line with the driver’s aesthetic preferences, the environmental conditions or even functional requirements hence presenting the “unprecedented potential for personalisation” in the area of exterior design.
“Similar to fashion or the status ads on social media channels, the vehicle then becomes an expression of different moods and circumstances in daily life,” said Stella Clarke, who headed up the iX Flow project at BMW.
When the BMW iX Flow turns reflective white on sunny days and heat-absorbing black in the cold, it could help to cut the electric vehicle’s energy consumption, thereby increasing its range which is impressive since the world gearing up for an all-electric vehicle future.
According to Dezeen, the digital paper used to wrap the car was originally developed by students of MIT’s Meedia Lab and functions with the help of traditional ink pigments used in the printing industry.
Each sheet contains millions of microcapsules, about as wide as human hair, filled with negatively-charged white pigments and positively-charged black pigments. Stimulating these capsules with electricity will prompt the chosen colour ink to move to the surface of the capsule, becoming visible from the outside.
BMW says the iX Flow is the first car in the world whose exterior colour can be changed at the touch of a button
New technologies will provide a whole new level of decision-making freedom in the future. “This gives the driver the freedom to express different facets of their personality or even their enjoyment of change outwardly, and to redefine this each time they sit into their car,” says Stella Clarke, Head of Project for the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink.
BMW further states that a variable exterior colour can also contribute to wellness in the interior and to the efficiency of the vehicle. This is done by taking into account the different abilities of light and dark colours when it comes to reflecting sunlight and the associated absorption of thermal energy.
“A white surface reflects a lot more sunlight than a black one. By implication, heating of the vehicle and passenger compartment as a result of strong sunlight and high outside temperatures can be reduced by changing the exterior to a light colour. In cooler weather, the dark outer skin will help the vehicle to absorb noticeably more warmth from the sun,” said BMW.
The E Ink technology will not only offer the ability to change colours but will also help to cut the amount of cooling and heating required from the vehicle’s air conditioning. This reduces the amount of energy the vehicle electrical system needs and with it also the vehicle’s fuel or electricity consumption.
BMW hasn’t made any announcements yet about having plans of integrating the technology into its other auto divisions but the carmaker is working on adapting it for different parts of the car, including the interior.
Future applications could include a colour-changing dashboard that won’t overheat and a flashing exterior that can help the driver find their car.
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.