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BMW unveiled a car that can change its color because its exterior has a coating of E Ink.
E Ink is the same kind of tech used in Amazon Kindle ebook readers, and can now cover the surface of an entire automobile. The company showed off the car at the tech trade show CES 2022 in Las Vegas.
Munich-based BMW is using it so that people can express their individuality by designing the car in the way they want, on both the exterior and interior of cars. With this car, you can instantly change the color from black to white, or add something like a racing stripe down the middle.
BMW said it will have a wide array of different colors to choose from, eventually. But right now, the company is still testing how the changes work with the black and white colors. The company has tested it in a variety of weather conditions, and it works fine.
Inside a car, BMW has My Modes, which allow the driver to tailor the atmosphere in the interior entirely to their personal mood and the driving experience they want.
With the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink, the car manufacturer is offering a way to adapt the exterior of a vehicle to different situations and individual wishes. The surface of the electronic ink can vary its shade at the driver’s prompting.
“Digital experiences won’t just be limited to displays in the future,” said Frank Weber, member of the board of management of BMW AG, in a statement. “There will be more and more melding of the real and virtual. With the BMW iX Flow, we are bringing the car body to life.”
The fluid color changes are made possible by a specially developed body wrap that is tailored precisely to the contours of the all-electric Sports Activity Vehicle from BMW. When stimulated by electrical signals, the electrophoretic technology brings different color pigments to the surface, causing the body skin to take on the desired coloration.
“The BMW iX Flow is an advanced research and design project and a great example of the forward thinking that BMW is known for,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design, in a statement.
Millions of paint capsules in a custom wrap
Electrophoretic coloring is based on a technology developed by E Ink that is most well-known from the displays used in ebook readers. The surface coating of the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink contains many millions of microcapsules, with a diameter equivalent to the thickness of a human hair. Each of these microcapsules contains negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments.
Depending on the chosen setting, stimulation by means of an electrical field causes either the white or the black pigments to collect at the surface of the microcapsule, giving the car body the desired shade.
Achieving this effect on a vehicle body involves the application of many precisely fitted epaper segments. Generative design processes are implemented to ensure the segments reflect the characteristic contours of the vehicle and the resulting variations in light and shadow. The generative design algorithms enable the necessary formability and flexibility required to tailor the epaper exactly to the design lines of the vehicle.
Laser cutting technologies guarantee high precision in generating each segment. After the segments are applied and the power supply for stimulating the electrical field is connected, the entire body is warmed and sealed to guarantee optimum and uniform color reproduction during every color change.
The E Ink technology opens new ways of changing the vehicle’s appearance in line with the driver’s aesthetic preferences, the environmental conditions, or even functional requirements.
New color variants will be added each year that reflect the characteristics of the model in question and that allow the brand to keep setting trends in the area of exterior design, the company said.
“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,” said Stella Clarke, project head for the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink, in a statement. “Similar to fashion or the status ads on social media channels, the vehicle then becomes an expression of different moods and circumstances in daily life.”
BMW said a variable exterior car color can also contribute to wellness in the interior and to the efficiency of the vehicle. This is done by taking account of the different abilities of light and dark colors when it comes to reflecting sunlight and the associated absorption of thermal energy.
A white surface reflects a lot more sunlight than a black one. By implication, heating of the vehicle and passenger compartment as a result of strong sunlight and high outside temperatures can be reduced by changing the exterior to a light color. In cooler weather, a dark outer skin will help the vehicle to absorb noticeably more warmth from the sun.
E Ink technology itself is extremely energy efficient. Unlike displays or projectors, the electrophoretic technology needs no energy to keep the chosen color state constant. Current only flows during the short color-changing phase.
That sounds like an over-justification for something cool.
BMW is also showing off internal compartment features, like a 31-inch television screen that can entertain passengers in the back seat. It hangs from the roof to the seats, and presumably you don’t have to worry about blocking a driver’s rearview mirror because it has cameras that can show what’s behind the car.
It has a resolution up to 8K and it has a 32:9 aspect ratio.
BMW showed its Digital Art Mode, created by Chinese multimedia artist Caro Fei. It enables you to put on a kind of light show on the interior of your car by lighting up the windows of the car.
The feature will be available for select vehicles in 2022. The artwork is entitled Quantum Garden, and it features “galaxies of visual spaces filled with dots, light beams, and nebulae.”
In 2020, the BMW Group sold over 2.3 million passenger vehicles and more than 169,000 motorcycles worldwide.