At CES last year, BMW presented the iX Flow concept, which was advertised as the world’s first color-changing car. The special version of the iX electric crossover featured panels that could shift between white, black, and gray.
This year, BMW has introduced an upgraded version of the technology with the i Vision Dee, an electric sports sedan concept that was unveiled at CES 2023. In addition to showcasing new technologies such as AI-powered virtual assistants and full-windshield heads-up displays, the i Vision Dee also featured a full-color version of E Ink technology for the first time ever. This allows the car to change colors on command, with a total of 32 colors available.
The i Vision Dee is made up of 240 E Ink e-paper segments, which can be controlled individually, allowing for a range of solid colors or even a light show. The i Vision Dee has a sleek design that combines elements of vintage BMWs with those of Tesla vehicles.
According to BMW, the color-changing technology of the i Vision Dee allows for an “almost infinite variety of patterns to be generated and displayed on the car’s exterior within seconds.” The car made its debut during BMW’s CES keynote on Wednesday, alongside other famous vehicles such as KITT from Knight Rider, Herbie the Love Bug, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger also appeared in a short film demonstrating the advanced features of the i Vision Dee.
The technology used in BMW’s concepts was developed by E Ink Corporation, a US-based company known for producing e-readers and smartwatches. The car’s exterior is coated with a film containing microcapsules filled with pigments that change color when electricity is applied. BMW claims that this technology is unique to the automotive industry and was developed and programmed by its in-house engineers.
The i Vision Dee concept uses E Ink’s latest technology, called Prism 3 film, which is fully programmable and designed to be energy-efficient. Prism 3 film can also be manufactured in any shape, offering endless potential for industrial design applications.
E Ink describes its display technology as “ultra-low power” because it is bistable, meaning it consumes very little energy. In addition to being used on the exterior of the i Vision Dee, the e-paper segments were also used on the concept’s wheels and grille. The grille, in particular, can create “facial expressions” as the car’s AI assistant reacts to various inputs. E Ink’s technology has been integrated into a wide range of products, including e-readers, cell phones, medical wearables, logistical tags, and digital signage.
It is currently unclear whether color-changing BMWs will ever be produced for the market. For now, it is an in-house research and development project that has garnered significant attention both within the company and from the public.
According to SlashGear, the team behind the project, led by Australian engineer Stella Clarke, has been working to improve the durability and functionality of the e-paper panels since last year’s CES. The team is currently focused on making the panels resistant to damage from factors such as flying insects and car washes. The ultimate goal is to create a spray that can be easily applied to body panels, but this is still a ways off.
It is also unclear what the costs of this technology would be, though Clarke has indicated that they could be lower than expected. It remains to be seen whether E Ink technology will become a desired option for those looking to make a statement with their M3.