Changing your car’s colour isn’t an easy process. Respraying a car is expensive, tricky and time-consuming. Modern vinyl wraps are effective and more convenient, but they’re still a less than ideal solution. It’s not something you can do on a whim.
But what if it was? Well, that’s what BMW’s latest car is capable of. Meet the BMW iX Flow: an early candidate for the most exciting concept car of 2022.
Unveiled at CES 2022 in Las Vegas, this wild version of BMW’s new electric crossover SUV features a unique E-Ink body wrap – the same stuff that’s used in a Kindle’s display. At the driver’s command, the car’s body panels can instantaneously shift colour from black to white and everything in between.
It’s so quick and so striking that it doesn’t seem real – but we promise you, it actually is. Check out a video of the BMW iX Flow colour-shifting in real-time below.
How does it work? Essentially, the wrap is filled with millions of tiny microcapsules, which contain negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments. When stimulated by an electrical field, either the white or the black pigments will collect at the surface of the microcapsule, giving the car body the desired shade.
“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, the BMW iX Flow’s project head.
Not only is the effect dramatic, but it’s also energy-efficient. Like many e-readers and unlike displays or projectors, the wrap doesn’t require energy to keep the chosen colour state constant, and current only flows during the short colour changing phase, BMW explains.
While this chameleon-like effect obviously looks really cool, it’s got a practical benefit beyond simply letting drivers personalise their cars on the fly.
Because white surfaces reflect more sunlight than black surfaces and vice versa, BMW suggests that by adjusting the car’s colour to the weather, you can help to cut the amount of cooling and heating required from the vehicle’s air conditioning, which would reduce the amount of energy the vehicle electrical system needs and therefore reduce the vehicle’s fuel or electricity consumption.
The other exciting part about the iX Flow is that unlike many concept cars, which tend to be extremely visionary, this technology could actually make its way onto cars in the not-so-distant future.
“BMW has not elaborated on the production possibilities of the E-Ink technology seen on the iX Flow, but suggested that applying the material was not unrealistically expensive and that we could see E-Ink eventually making its way onto production vehicles,” Car and Driver relates.
The iX Flow wasn’t the only big car news to come out of CES. BMW also unveiled a new M variant of the iX, the iX M60, which can do 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds and boasts a peak power output of 455 kW plus 1100 Nm of torque in Sport Mode.
Japanese electronics giant Sony also unveiled another electric vehicle prototype, the Vision-S 02 SUV, which is roughly the same size as a Tesla Model Y and can play PlayStation games through a remote connection to a gaming console at home. Talk about a level up…