New BMW is a Color-Changing Chameleon

Black? Or white? If you’re undecided on whether to embrace dark or light when it comes to your next luxury vehicle, BMW may be able to help with that. The BMW iX Flow luxury electric Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) debuted at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, showing off its sleek design, all-wheel drive capability, and commitment to sustainability. But the real showstopper: the car’s ability to change colors.

Fickle car buyers, rejoice!

The BMW iX Flow uses color-changing technology featuring E Ink, the same electronic paper tech that has been used in eReaders. “The fluid color changes are made possible by a specially developed body wrap that is tailored precisely to the contours of the all-electric car,” said BMW Group in a news release. “When stimulated by electrical signals, the electrophoretic technology brings different color pigments to the surface, causing the body skin to take on the desired coloration.”

This isn’t the auto industry’s first foray into color-changing possibilities. Heat-sensitive thermochromic paint acts like a mood ring; the pigments react in different ways to different temperatures, so a car treated with this type of finish can display several colors at once in random patterns. Electroluminescent paint emits light through an electric current, creating a glow-in-the-dark effect.

In 2010, Spanish car designer Daniel Garcia showed off the Audi A9 concept car, which suggested using nanotechnology—that hadn’t yet been created—for color-changing purposes. He envisioned a process of “electronic painting” that would alter the color of the car with push of a button.

In 2022, color change is being realized through digitization that can “adapt the exterior of a vehicle to different situations and individual wishes,” said BMW. “The surface of the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink can vary its shade at the driver’s prompting.”

That means having the ability to change the car’s exterior color depending on your mood. It also means being able to immediately adjust to atmospheric conditions. “A white surface reflects a lot more sunlight than a black one,” said BMW. “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 color. In cooler weather, a dark outer skin will help the vehicle to absorb noticeably more warmth from the sun.”

Not only does this increase comfort for the occupants, but it also contributes to the car’s sustainability by reducing both the need for interior heating and cooling and the overall amount of energy consumed.

E Ink technology adds another layer of efficiency with its low energy output. E Ink’s digital paper “is bistable, meaning it only uses power to change color, not to maintain it,” said E Ink in a news release. In addition, it doesn’t emit light, unlike most displays, but rather reflects ambient light.

Added Tim O’Malley, the company’s AVP, US Regional Business Unit: “Because E Ink is incredibly low power and durable, we can put our display technology on almost any surface, transforming a once static space into something dynamic and spectacular—and sustainable.”

The luxury electric SAV is launching in two electric all-wheel-drive models, the 385 kW/523 hp BMW iX xDrive50 with a range of up to 391 miles and the 240 kW/326 hp BMW iX xDrive40 with a range of up to 264 miles. The sportier and more robust BMW iX M60 is also on the horizon.

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