BMW’s color-changing concept works just like an e-reader

E-Ink technology has proven useful in many applications since its introduction in 1997 – from digital whiteboards to laptop screens, and even personal accessories. At CES 2022, this technology finally made its way into the automotive industry as BMW revealed an e-ink car exterior that can change colors depending on the weather and traffic conditions, or just according to the mood of the driver.

In response to your first question, no, this futuristic feature isn’t production ready at all despite it being shown in the show on a live demonstration car, dubbed the e-ink BMW iX Flow.

The same electrophoretic tint is applied as a car body covering but works just like the Kindle’s e-ink screens. The shell is enclosed in millions of microcapsules, each containing a negatively charged white pigment and a positively charged black pigment. Depending on the setting, applying an electrical charge to the material will cause the white or black pigments to rise to the top of the microcapsule, changing the vehicle’s color in moments.

While the current iteration can only switch between a pair of colors, the panel can eventually be expanded to display the value of a rainbow of different shades. “This gives the driver the freedom to express different aspects of their personality or even their enjoyment of the exterior change, redefining that every time they sit in their car,” Stella Clark, project leader for BMW iX Flow featuring the E Ink, said in a prepared statement. “Similar to fashion or status ads on social media channels, the car then becomes an expression of different moods and circumstances in everyday life.”

External e-ink displays can also be useful in more practical applications such as changing colors depending on the weather to increase vehicle battery life (and thus range) in cold climates or reduce the need for air conditioning in fair weather.

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