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BMW debuts changing exterior color on iX crossover

CES 2022

Cool tech features and battery-electric vehicles aren’t the only things debuting at the 2022 CES Show. BMW used the venue to show off an iX that can change its exterior colors. Called the iX Flow, the crossover comes with something BMW dubs E Ink, a wrap that allows for changing hues. It was tailored specifically for the iX and uses electrophoretic technology to bring different color pigments to the surface, causing the change in hues.

E Ink opens new possibilities on how to change the vehicle’s appearance based on the driver’s preferences. This allows for extensive personalization when it comes to the exterior of the vehicle. The iX Flow is the first showcase of the BMW Group’s exploration and development of technology that changes a vehicle’s appearance, allowing for endless levels of customization. BMW currently offers a wide range of exterior colors, especially when you include the BMW Individual program, which gives you endless possibilities in how to make your car truly distinct.

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 lnk. “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 notes that changing exterior colors can contribute to wellness in the interior and improve the vehicle’s efficiency. How does it do it? By taking into account the different abilities of light and dark colors when it comes to reflecting sunlight and absorbing thermal energy. More sunlight bounces off white surfaces more than dark ones. As a result, the vehicle doesn’t need to use as much energy to heat the passenger cabin or get to its ideal operating temperature. In cooler weather, dark exteriors absorb more heat from the sun. The ability to select an exterior color helps cut the amount of cooling and heating needed to operate the vehicle’s climate control system, reducing the energy draw coming from the electrical system. Indirectly, this can improve the efficiency of a vehicle, allowing it to go further on a single charge or one tank of fuel.

The E Ink electrophoretic coloring is based on a technology used in e-readers. Millions of microcapsules are embedded on the iX’s surface coating and have the same diameter as human hair. Each one contains negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments. Based on the setting you choose, stimulation via an electrical field causes either of the two pigments to collect at the surface of the microcapsule to create the desired shade. To get this effect on a vehicle, BMW fitted ePaper segments throughout the car.

Generative design processes are used to make sure the segments accurately reflect the vehicle’s shape, contours, and light, and shadow variations. Laser cutting technologies further ensure that every segment is precisely made. Once the segments are applied and the power supply for stimulating the electrical field gets connected, the whole body is warmed and sealed to ensure that every color reproduction on each change is optimum and uniform. BMW hints that it could put this technology into production later in the future. Additionally, it also noted that it could also be used on the interior in addition to the exterior of the car.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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