At CES 2022, BMW demonstrated its iX Flow concept car which, at the press of a button, can change color.
When the Ford Motor Company started making the first mass-produced car, the Model T, it made much of the slogan that eager customers can have ‘any color as long as it’s black’.
This week at the —mostly virtual— Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, German car maker BMW completely up-ended that concept.
It demonstrated its iX Flow concept car which, at the press of a button, can change color, albeit initially, it will only work between black and white, with a few shades of grey in between.
The E-Ink technology used, similar to that used by Amazon in its second generation Kindle e-readers, will “bring the car body to life” the company says, with a wraparound skin.
The effect is generated by delivering an electrical charge to millions of microcapsules, as thin as human hair, and contains particles of the necessary color pigments. These are suspended in a liquid encased in the wraparound skin. The color will change depending on whether a positive or negative charge is applied. Current only flows during the short color-changing phase.
Achieving the effect on the vehicle body is a complex process that involves the application of a huge number of precisely fitted ePaper segments. “Generative design processes” are implemented to ensure all the segments reflect the characteristic contours of the vehicle and the resulting variations in light and shadow. Specially designed algorithms enable the necessary formability and flexibility needed to tailor the ePaper exactly to the design lines of the car.
Furthermore, laser cutting technologies ensure high precision in generating each segment. Once all segments have been applied and the power supply for stimulating the electric field is connected, the whole body is warmed and sealed to guarantee the optimum and uniform color reproduction during each color change.
The company notes that the iX Flow’s electrophoretic technology does not use any energy. It adds the concept could even have environmental benefits: Drivers could easily turn the car from, say, black to white on hot and sunny days to limit heat absorption.
Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW’s Design Group, said “the advanced research and design project is a great example of the forward thinking that BMW is known for.”
And Stella Clarke, head of the project at the car maker, stresses the iX Flow will “give the drivers the freedom to express different facets of their personality.”
However, before rushing to your local dealer, BMW cautions that for now this is a ‘concept car’ and has not given any dates for when it would be commercially available.
Separately at the show, which is becoming more and more focused on automotive advancements rather than traditional consumer electronics devices advances, Sony unveiled its prototype electric car, dubbed the Vision-S 02, as part of its new Sony Mobility division. The car includes a 5G-enabled dashboard with multiple displays and has over 40 sensors inside and outside to help with augmented driving. It also features speakers built into the seat that the Japanese group says creates a “three-dimensional sound field” around passengers, as well as a system that allows them to stream PlayStation games to a console at home.
Advanced versions could include a system that even allows drivers to choose the sound they wish the car to produce as it changes speed.