Automotive

BMW wraps a concept car in stunning color-changing E Ink

BMW wraps a concept car in stu...
BMW's new iX Flow concept features E Ink body panels that can change color
BMW's new iX Flow concept features E Ink body panels that can change color
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BMW's new iX Flow concept features E Ink body panels that can change color
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BMW's new iX Flow concept features E Ink body panels that can change color
The effect is pretty stunning
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The effect is pretty stunning
The system consumes very little power, as E Ink only requires a small energy input when changing color
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The system consumes very little power, as E Ink only requires a small energy input when changing color
The process of shaping, cutting, laying out, coating and connecting the E Ink panels looks like a nightmare
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The process of shaping, cutting, laying out, coating and connecting the E Ink panels looks like a nightmare
View gallery - 4 images

BMW has one-upped itself, rolling out one of the most jaw-dropping car exterior treatments ever. After unveiling the blackest car in the universe back in 2019, the company has just presented an iX Flow concept with color-changing E Ink panels.

Well, color maybe isn't the right word; the car is covered in painstakingly laid out and clear-coated monochrome E Ink sheets. Unlike your typical e-reader, it doesn't appear to be able to display fine-resolution text; BMW has set the entire car up as a single pixel, so to speak, that can switch between white and dark gray. But the change radiates out gradually along the individual sheets over the course of a couple of seconds – hence the images here, which capture the process in mid-shift.

It might be a relatively simple way to use E Ink, but the process of making this concept car looks like a nightmare. The project team, led by Stella Clarke, first had to "unwrap" the 3D shapes of the car panels into 2D shapes, then use generative design techniques to determine the best way to break those up into a series of polygonal shapes. Then, after paper prototypes had been cut and tested, the team started laser-cutting its E Ink panels and sticking them onto the car.

The process of shaping, cutting, laying out, coating and connecting the E Ink panels looks like a nightmare
The process of shaping, cutting, laying out, coating and connecting the E Ink panels looks like a nightmare

After clear-coating it all to make sure it's at least a bit capable of withstanding road grit, water and debris, the team then had to wire up a crazy number of electronic connections back to a central computer, and then program the color shift operations.

The final effect is stunning in an understated and classy way; BMW's executive team must be positively frothing over how well it fits the brand. It works beautifully, and since it's E Ink, it requires no power other than the small signal prompting the panels to change.

There's some interesting potential with this kind of thing; obviously, the temptation would be to deck the next version out with higher-resolution E Ink panels that can actually display images and text. That could be fun, as evidenced by previous projects that apply the same concept to sneakers and bracelets. And of course, there's E Ink's Advanced Color ePaper, or ACeP, which can deliver either full color, or a restricted palette of options. We wouldn't be surprised to see BMW rolling out something along these lines in the future.

The system consumes very little power, as E Ink only requires a small energy input when changing color
The system consumes very little power, as E Ink only requires a small energy input when changing color

Will it make production as a color option? That seems unlikely, at least in the near future. Large E Ink displays are insanely expensive at the moment – at least ones like the gorgeous 42-inch Quirklogic Quilla whiteboard, which, five years after we first saw it, is now on sale for a rock-bottom US$4,888.89. Admittedly that's got some smarts built in, but still we shudder to think what a full-color ACeP wrap that's big enough for a whole car might cost. And that's to say nothing of durability; a rogue supermarket trolley's desperate bid for freedom in a slanted car park could have very expensive repercussions in the real world.

Still, the iX Flow E Ink is super cool to look at, and it definitely sparks the imagination, so it's a worthy concept car for sure. Check out a video below.

Color-changing BMW iX Flow, featuring E-Ink

Source: BMW

View gallery - 4 images
14 comments
14 comments
Smokey_Bear
That is super cool, It would be wild to one day have a vehicle that can change colors on the fly, and different designs based on the day or your mood. Hope they continue to refine it, and not have it stay in the concept car only world.
Demosthenes
When I compare BMW and Mercedes, the former company is still living in the past. To look for the future in the color game is nonsense, especially since this would immediately be banned by the police.
anthony88
Imagine the panel beating costs!
Michael son of Lester
I can just see the poor guy trying to get this registered...

Clerk: "OK Sir, what is the make of the vehicle?" Owner: "It's a BMW xxx." Clerk: "I see on the form there are several colours listed, what colour is the car?" Owner: "Well, that all depends upon my mood. I can change the colour whenever I want."

And so begins the new BMW owner's odyssey of trying to get plates for his new ride...
andrew
It would be perfect to use as a getaway car after a bank robbery, drive away in a white car and change to black as soon as you're around the corner. The police will be looking for a white car and you'll be safe in your black car....I wonder if they thought of that?
guzmanchinky
Very cool, but potentially distracting and hard for other drivers to see? Reminds me of the ships they used to put strange patterns on to confuse submarines...
Username
This is what happens when designers and engineers run out of useful ideas.
D.F. Grey
That’s entertaining but the car is even uglier than the Bentley Bentayga and the Rolls Cullinan put together.
Lamar Havard
Maybe for military/stealth. I can see all kinds of legal/licensing problems with this on cars.
Elgaumais
This system would be more interesting and useful if it were automatic and would change the color of the vehicle so that it contrasts more in its environment and thus is more visible in terms of safety.
Indeed, in winter many white vehicles are for example very little visible in foggy or snowy weather; if it turned orange, security would benefit.
As it is now, this system is only for "have you seen me?" and the bandits who will do their misdeeds in a white car and flee in a gray car!
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