BMW’s iX Flow Color-Changing Exterior

Wrapped in E Ink, the vehicle's color can shift at the driver's command

Just unveiled at a virtual CES press conference, the BMW iX Flow is a proof of concept for a color-changing exterior. Using their electric iX as the base, the car is clad in E Ink and can switch between black and white in an instant. While we were excited to see this innovation in-person, BMW (like so many other brands) chose to present at CES virtually this year; however, the video below does a great job of showing the innovation in action.

The same technology found in most eReaders, E Ink is a micro-thin laminate that holds tiny capsules filled with negatively charged white pigment and positively charged black pigment. When hit with a brief electric pulse the color swaps. For the iX Flow, BMW designers molded panels of this display technology to wrap the car. “This 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 sit into their car,” says Stella Clarke, Head of Project for the BMW iX Flow.

A color-changing exterior has functional value as well. Darker colors absorb heat and lighter ones deflect it so when used in concert with the car’s interior climate control greater efficiencies in battery power usage can be gained. It’s noteworthy that the electricity used is minimal given that it’s only needed to change the color—once complete there’s now power going to the E Ink panels.

Thinking beyond this concept it’s easy to imagine more creative design applications using selective panel segments or eventually different color pigments. And then there’s a future fantasy where the car’s exterior cameras read the environment and trigger colors and patterns on the exterior as a response to it.

iX Flow is a concept so BMW did not comment on whether this will be an option in the future and if so how much it would cost, but the technology here is actually quite basic and the complexity is in the craftsmanship of its application—so we wouldn’t be surprised to see it on the streets in coming years.

Images and video courtesy of BMW