Picking a colour for your brand new car isn’t easy when there’s so much choice, but in the future, you might not have to settle on just one. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, BMW is currently showing off what it calls the ‘iX Flow’, and it can change from white to black at the touch of a button.
The EV has a special wrap filled with E Ink, otherwise known as the stuff in your Amazon Kindle or other eReader. There are millions of “microcapsules” of the ink spread around the car, each about as thick as a single human hair.
Each one contains positively charged black pigments and negatively charged white, either of which can be brought to the surface when ‘stimulated’ by an electrical field. Once the colour has shifted, no electricity is required to keep the pigments in place. It can either flick between the two shades near instantaneously or do so with a little more fanfare, as seen in the video above.
The wrap is made up of laser-cut ePaper sections made via “generative design algorithms” to ensure precise fitting to the iX’s lines and contours. And as we know, the controversially-styled SUV has plenty of those going on.
The technology serves a practical purpose too since a car’s exterior finish affects its thermal properties - white reflects more sunlight than black. “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,” BMW suggests, adding, “In cooler weather, a dark outer skin will help the vehicle to absorb noticeably more warmth from the sun.”
BMW says it’s working to bring the technology to its production cars, but we probably shouldn’t expect something like this to appear on the configurator any time soon. Commercial applications of E Ink haven’t been around all that long, and for the tech to reliably function on the outside of a car that might be in use for a couple of decades in various conditions, a whole lot of development will be needed.
Indeed, the iX Flow is said to be quite temperature sensitive, and there is one video out there showing the ePaper on the recharge flap failing to shift colour. But still, as an early demonstration, this is hugely impressive.