In what can be termed as a global first, German automaker BMW unveiled the iX Flow SUV at the Consumer Electronics Show. The iX Flow can change its exterior colour between black and white to suit the driver’s mood and conserve electricity. Though the iX Flow concept itself will not be made into a production car, many aspects of the new design language will be applied to future showroom models.
The BMW iX Flow has been wrapped in a “digital paper”, which is similar to the material used in the screen of Kindle e-reader. Colour change is prompted by an electrical impulse, making it possible for the driver to change the colour. The car needs no electricity to hold its colour and can be turned to reflective white on sunny days and heat-absorbing black in the cold, thereby enhancing the cabin comfort and driving range on account of power conservation.
The digital paper was originally developed by students of MIT’s Media Lab and functions with the help of traditional ink pigments used in the printing industry. The sheet contains millions of microcapsules, filled with negatively-charged white pigments and positively-charged black pigments. These capsules are stimulated with electricity that prompts the chosen colour ink to move to the surface, becoming visible from outside.
Triangle mesh pattern
BMW developed a triangle mesh pattern using a generative algorithm to mould the plastic sheet, which was laser-cut into precise segments. Once the segments are applied and the power supply for stimulating the electrical field is connected, the entire body is warmed and sealed to ensure uniform colour reproduction during every colour change.
Despite the fact that the BMW has not yet announced plans to integrate this technology into its actual fleet, it is expected that the carmaker could adopt it for different parts of the car, especially interiors. The applications could include a colour-changing dashboard that doesn’t overheat, thereby adding to the cabin appeal. BMW also stated that repairing the technology shouldn’t be too hard, making it more production-worthy.