Tired of starting out your day looking at the same car sitting in your driveway — or at least wish you had purchased a different color? BMW might have the answer.
Among the various production and concept vehicles the Bavarian automaker is showing off at the Consumer Electronics Show the iX Flow has been drawing plenty of interest. That’s because it is covered in E Ink, rather than traditional paint, which would allow a motorist to change its color simply at the touch of a button.
The technology is lifted from today’s popular e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle, which use microcapsules of pigment that can change colors and shades in the presence of an electromagnetic field.
In the case of the BMW iX Flow, the automaker started out with a version of its new battery-electric SUV. But instead of painting the crossover, it uses a body wrap impregnated with those microcapsules. Technically known as “electrophoretic” technology, each pigment has a different charge that responds to an electric current.
Black, white or any shade of gray
Depending upon the charge that’s applied, the wrap can turn black or white — or any shade in-between. And, as with e-readers, any sort of pattern could be “printed” upon the surface, such as racing stripes or, if the driver wanted, a message or logo or picture.
Unlike video screens which require a constant flow of current to maintain an image, the pigments retain their color indefinitely — or until the driver picks a new hue.
“This is really energy efficient color change using the technology E Ink,” explained BMW research engineer Stella Clarke during a CES presentation.
And while future motorists might choose the technology purely for vanity’s sake, Clarke suggested, “We see a lot of sensible use cases behind it.
“My favorite use case is the use of color to influence sunlight reflections,” the BMW engineer said. “On a hot, sunny day like today, you could switch the color white to reflect sunlight. On a cold day, you could switch it to black to absorb the heat.”
For the time being, the wrap BMW has developed only can work in black, white and shades of gray, but Clarke suggested it could eventually be upgraded to allow the use of true colors.
Other BMW concepts at CES
There were plenty of colors visible inside another BMW iX concept vehicle at CES. As TheDetroitBureau.com also has reported, the automaker is showing off a new 31-inch “BMW Theater Screen,” complete with Amazon’s Fire TV.
BMW is just one of many automakers who see a market for in-car entertainment technology, both hardware and software. By some estimates, the industry will generate revenues in the tens of billions of dollars by the end of the decade.
While the BMW Theater Screen is scheduled to show up in production in the next several years, the automaker says it has not yet determined whether it will follow up by offering a retail version of its color-changing body wrap.