A concept version of BMW’s iX Flow with color-changing paint. Interesting Engineering
Personalization and self-expression are turning out to be major themes at CES 2022.
BMW’s big announcement today — a technology that changes the color of a car with the touch of a button — shows that the storied German automaker understood the assignment. The company unveiled the tech on a concept version of its new 100% electric iX Flow SUV. A production model of the iX Flow will be available soon, but vehicles with color-changing paint won’t be hitting showroom floors at car dealerships for quite a while — if they ever do. BMW describes the chameleon-like exterior as an “advanced research and design project.”
The color-changing paint is a new, flashy application of a familiar technology. E-ink, which enables the “electric paper” technology that powers e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, drives the paint BMW unveiled today. The ink is impregnated with microcapsules, about as thick as a human hair. White pigments within these microcapsules are negatively charged, and black pigments carry a positive charge. Input from the user shifts the electric field around the capsules, nudging some of the pigments to the surface where they change the color of the paint. The technology is currently available in black, white, and a few shades of grey.
“This [technology] 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 get into their car,” according to Stella Clarke, who led the project within BMW. The company also points to more practical applications. Since white paint reflects light, it could keep interiors cooler in hot weather, reducing the amount of energy needed for air condition. Black, on the other hand, absorbs light and could reduce the amount of power needed to keep a vehicle comfortably warm.