BMW has showcased a stunning future technology at CES 2022 which uses digitisation to adapt the exterior shade of the vehicle according to the driver’s beck and call. The BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink makes use of specially developed body wrap that is tailored to the contours of the electric SUV. When stimulated by electrical signals, the electrophoretic technology brings different colour pigments to the surface, causing the body skin to take on the desired colouration.
BMW Group is currently driving the development of the E Ink technology so that a new form of personalisation can be experienced both on the outside and inside of future production vehicles. “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,” says Stella Clarke, Head of Project for the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink. “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 further explain that this chameleon-like technology can help to cut the amount of cooling and heating required from the vehicle’s air conditioning. This reduces the amount of energy the vehicle electrical system needs and with it also the vehicle’s fuel or electricity consumption. In an all-electric car, changing the colour in line with the weather can therefore also help to increase the range. In the interior, the technology could, for example, prevent the dashboard from heating up too much.
Furthermore, the E Ink technology itself is claimed to be extremely energy efficient. Unlike displays or projectors, electrophoretic technology doesn’t require any energy to keep the chosen colour state constant. Electrophoretic colouring is based on a technology developed by E Ink that is most well-known from the displays used in eReaders. 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.
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. Quite fascinating, isn’t it? Which colour would you choose on a hot and sunny day as opposed to a cold winter night? Although, do remember that currently, the iX Flow can only shift between shades of white, grey, and black. But, more vivid colours are on the cards.