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Shoppers pondering over which color car to purchase may want to consider German automaker BMW's new concept car. Unveiled at the January 2022 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, the stylish BMW iX Flow is the world's first color-changing car. The vehicle's exterior can be changed from white to gray to black, and back, with the touch of a button.
The electric SUV's chameleon-like color-changing properties are attained using the E Ink display technology. This is the same application that allows portable e-readers, like the Amazon Kindle, to replicate the look of a printed page.
The project team, led by BMW engineer Stella Clarke, began by converting the 3D shapes of the car panels into 2D forms. They then cut the 2D panels into a series of polygonal shapes that would precisely match the car's contours. Once the paper prototypes had been tested, the team used them to laser cut the E Ink "skin," added the necessary wiring, and carefully stuck each panel to the car's exterior. The vehicle's surface was then clear-coated to protect it from road grit and water.
The millions of tiny capsules on the E Ink panel surfaces each contain a negatively charged white pigment and a positively charged black pigment. A simple phone app, programmed to send electrical impulses, helps surface all the white or black pigments, or a mix of the two, giving the car's body the desired shade.
BMW maintains that, cool factor aside, there are many practical benefits of wrapping cars in E Ink. A white exterior on a hot day could decrease the need for air conditioning, while a black surface could absorb more heat and keep the occupants warm on a chilly day. The technology also adds a new dimension to vehicle customization and, more importantly, makes it easier to locate the car in a crowded parking lot!
Unfortunately, BMW is not planning on bringing the radical car to market anytime soon. The current cost of E Ink displays is too high for a commercial rollout. But we can only imagine all the design possibilities once the technology is more affordable!
Resources: CNN.com, the verge.com, newatlas.com