If you asked us five years ago, we’d tell you colour-changing cars sound like something you’ll only see in James Bond movies. BMW, however, brought this spy-age tech along to the 2022 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show.
The Beemer in question is the iX Flow and it features E Ink that, well, doesn’t look all that different from the automaker’s ‘standard’ iX all-electric SUV. Instead, it’s covered with a skin of e-paper that changes from dark to light in a flick of a switch.
The result, according to BMW, is an electric SUV that can be white at one moment and dark grey the next. To make it, BMW took advantage of E Ink’s flexible display tech, which can not only be cut, but also shaped into different pieces.
BMW is no stranger to this technology, though. It has used E Ink tech before in concepts like the BMW i Vision Circular, and for the digital licence plate on the Vision Amby motorcycle. For the iX Flow, it switched it up a notch by breaking the panels of the car down into 2D segments. Strips of e-paper could then be laser cut and combined into curving forms that wrap around the bodywork.
The big question here at TGSA, undoubtedly, is just how practical this new colour-changing technology might be for production vehicles. While we’re familiar with concept cars making splashy debuts and then the tech disappearing without a trace, according to BMW that’s not necessarily the fate that need befall the iX Flow.
“We definitely see a road to the future,” said Stella Clarke who’s the project lead on the car.
BMW is also exploring ways that the technology could enable more communicative vehicles: “We see some useful use-cases there,” Clarke continued; “the first being that you could show information on the surface of the car: the battery status on a car-sharing car, or we could make the car blink if you’ve lost your car”. That might be particularly useful if you thought you parked a white car but came back to find it was set to a darker tone.
As for colour, the iX Flow can transition between black, grey, and white while we probably won’t see the richer end of the hue-scale just yet.