Change Your Car’s Color With the Touch of a Button

BMW’s iX Flow concept SUV features electrophoretic technology that lets the owner of the vehicle ditch the new paint job. On Jan. 5, it debuted a concept vehicle called the BMW iX Flow, which uses electrophoretic technology to change colors from black to white or combine black and white in a kaleidoscope of graphics across the surface of its body. The iX Flow is based on the electric iX SUV that BMW debuted in 2021.

“The car dresses you, it expresses you—not just from the inside but from the outside—so we have tried to create a technology and adapted it to the car that allows you to do that,” Christoph Grote, senior vice president of electronics at BMW Group, said during a roundtable interview during the launch. He also noted that being able to change a vehicle from dark to light while driving under hot temperatures would help with efficiency and thermal regulation inside the vehicle.

Change Your Car’s Color With the Touch of a Button
The BMW iX Flow uses a body wrap cut to hug the contours of the vehicle. When stimulated by electrical signals, the electrophoretic technology brings different color pigments to the surface, causing it to take on the preferred color. Photographer: Tom Kirkpatrick

BMW worked with a company called E-Ink to develop the application for vehicles. Founded in 1997, E-Ink developed the technology used in Kindle readers and commercial displays for such brands as Sony and BMW’s application of e-ink works via a wrap tailored to cover the entire body of the SUV. The wrap contains different color pigments that, when stimulated by various electrical signals, will rise to the surface of the skin, causing it to change hue.

Adrian van Hooydonk, the head of BMW Group Design, called the color-changing technology on the iX Flow, which has not been confirmed for production, part of the group’s plan to develop “human-centric” products that stimulate all senses. BMW has said it will spend €30 billion ($34 billion) on future-oriented technologies by 2025.

New Tech Sees Virtual Debuts
BMW announced E-Ink to coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company had planned a full program of in-person events at the annual technology show but canceled in favor of the virtual reveals streamed from Munich amid a rise in novel coronavirus cases. Mercedes-Benz also ditched plans to attend the convention, as did Amazon, Meta, and Lenovo, among others.