Our friends at BMW, the German car maker, have showcased the first ‘colour-changing’ car. Straight from our science fiction dreams. Unveiled at the ongoing CES festival in the US, the concept car on show can change its colour from white to black and all the greys in between.
The concept car is called the BMW iX Flow and its exterior is wrapped in a material that allows for the chameleon-like superpower. BMW says the material can also be used in the interior, though not showcased on the iX Flow. Allowing for on-the-fly customization that even James Bond could only dream about in 2021.
BMW says that although the car on show can only transition from white to black, the tech behind it allows for a broader spectrum of colours.
What kind of paint are they using?
It is not paint at all but a wrap. The car is wrapped and in the wrap are embedded microcapsules which contain the different colour pigments. It all works similar to how e-readers like the Kindle work.
In the iX Flow as showcased, there are negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments. Also embedded is an electric field which delivers the electric signals that bring different colour pigments to the surface, thereby changing the colour.
Power is only needed when sending the electric signals that cause the change of colour. Once the colour changes, no power is needed to maintain the colour. Just like it is with e-readers, which gives them their otherworldly battery life. So, for our BMW, we can be confident the chameleon shenanigans won’t be draining the battery.
The driver uses an app on their phone to colour-shift the BMW iX Flow and in the future there will be buttons in the car itself allowing for that purpose.
Why is BMW bothering with this?
The obvious first reason is the customisation it affords car owners. Your car need not become boring. By switching colours every other day, you can feel like you own a fleet.
You know, like that famous Arab prince who has the same Benz in different colours for each day of the week. You can display the same clout with just one Beemer. You’d even have the better of our dear billionaire prince by having access to more colours. Not to mention other designs like racing stripes, stars or whatever shapes BMW will allow you to display on your car.
This will undoubtedly make the police’s job harder though. If this e-ink tech catches on, ‘the suspect is driving a green Honda Fit’ would not narrow down anything. All Fits would have to be stopped.
At the same time it would make avoiding family and friends easier. When driving through a neighbourhood I am likely to run into people I’d rather not meet, going pink would mean they’d never suspect it’s me. Oh BMW, you got me dreaming here.
The second reason is rather more practical. On a hot October afternoon, you can use the white colour to help deflect/reflect much of the sunlight. Alternatively going black during a cold July afternoon to help absorb more heat. All because dark colours absorb more heat than light colours like my O-Level science teacher taught me.
This is the future I’m ready for
I never knew I wanted an app that changes my car’s colour in a few seconds. But now that I see it, I’ve never wanted anything more because yes, it takes like a couple of seconds to change colours. Imagine the possibilities.
Of course, it will be much more expensive to repair the wrap if some mshikashika guy fleeing the police scratched your pristine orange-on-the-day Beemer. BMW says it’s still too early to know just how much it would cost to make such repairs. All we know is that it will be much much more expensive than buying a few spray cans.
Maybe by the time the e-ink tech is ready for mass release, they would have made the necessary advancements to make it a bit cheaper. Remember that this is a concept BMW car and they are showing off what the future holds. When exactly that future will come is not clear for now but I’m ready for it.