Soon you can change the color of your car with the touch of a button

The BMW Group wants to change the color of your car at the touch of a button.

On January 5, it debuted a concept car called the BMW iX Flow, which uses electrophoresis technology to change colors from black to white or combine black and white in a scene of graphics across the surface of its body. The iX Flow is based on the electriciX SUV that BMW debuted in 2021.

“The car wears you, it expresses you – not just from the inside but from the outside – so we tried to create technology and adapt it to the car that allows you to do that,” Christoph Groot, Senior Vice President of Electronics at BMW Group, during a roundtable interview during launch. He also noted that the ability to change the car from dark to light while driving in high temperatures would help with efficiency and thermoregulation inside the car.

BMW worked with a company called E-Ink to develop the app for the vehicles. Founded in 1997, E-Ink has developed the technology used in Kindle readers and commercial monitors for brands such as Sony and Amazon.com. The BMW e-ink application works on a case designed to cover the entire body of the SUV. The coat contains various color pigments that, when stimulated by various electrical signals, will rise to the surface of the skin, changing its color.

“The challenge is not so much the technology as how it is applied to the car,” Grote said. “The thing about the car is: How do you shape it into a 3D surface? So they laser cut it on a 3D curved screen.”

The BMW iX Flow system uses electrophoresis technology to change colours.
The BMW iX Flow system uses electrophoresis technology to change colours.

The color-changing technology in the iX Flow, whose production has not been confirmed, is described by Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design, as part of the group’s plan to develop “human-focused” products that stimulate all the senses. BMW has said it will spend $34 billion on future-oriented technologies by 2025.

“For us, digitization is about the whole experience and the emotions that can be created with it,” van Hooydonk said.

virtual starts

BMW announced the E-Ink in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company had planned a full program of in-person events at the annual technology fair but canceled in favor of virtual revelations flowing from Munich amid a spike in novel coronavirus cases. Mercedes-Benz also abandoned its plans to attend the conference, as did Amazon, Mita and Lenovo, among others.

Had BMW attended CES this year, it would have been the first time the 105-year-old brand had shown an all-new model at the traditional tech fair. Instead, the zero-emissions electric BMW iX M60 made its digital broadcast debut. The SUV is a more powerful version of the electric iX that debuted BMW in 2021, with a combined 455 kW/619 hp from two electric motors, 811 lb-ft of maximum torque with launch control, and electric all-wheel drive. High performance chassis tuning. BMW says it will go from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.

The BMW iX M60 electric car is on display at the BMW booth during the CES tech show on January 5 in Las Vegas.
The BMW iX M60 electric car is on display at the BMW booth during the CES tech show on January 5 in Las Vegas.(Joe Buglewicz/Linked Press)

Together with the new i4 sports sedan, the iX and its variants reflect the BMW Group’s huge investment in electric vehicles. As of December 2021, it had already delivered over a million of them worldwide.

“The main driver of our success is our drive for electric mobility,” Peter Nota, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, said during the launch. “We already have the next milestone in sight: We are aiming to break through 2 million miles [EVs delivered] mark in the next two years.”

immersive experiences

The E-Ink was one of many new technologies that BMW developed to immerse the user in customized digital environments inside and outside of its cars. So-called “My Modes,” scheduled for release in the second half of 2022, includes a work that showcases digital artwork inside the car’s cabin and a theater mode that improves entertainment in the back of the cabin.

The modes called Expressive and Relax feature customizable sounds and digital patterns scattered across the vehicle. The effect appears to be similar to comfort technologies such as the ‘Activate’ and ‘Warm’ modes that Mercedes-Benz has introduced in many of its luxury cars; BMW executives say their managers are different and must be experienced to be appreciated.

My BMW modes include this one called Expressive with customizable sounds and digital patterns spread throughout the vehicle.
My BMW modes include this one called Expressive with customizable sounds and digital patterns spread throughout the vehicle.(Fabian Kirschbauer)

Stefan Durash, Senior Vice President, BMW Group Connected Co. and Technical Operations, during the roundtable: “BMW My Modes is unique to this vehicle.” “It’s something completely different. You really have to experience it for yourself.”

The BMW Group is developing specific soundtracks for all-electric models in its cars with multi-film award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, who recently developed the soundtrack for Dune.

“Sound … gives us the possibility to move forward in a graceful and elegant way without the noise and distraction that petrol and diesel engines have provided us with in the last century,” Zimmer said during the launch. “Instead, we slip using invisible technology. Electricity is invisible, and anything invisible and that powerful automatically is a good step into the future.”

Nota explained his decision to push for such developments in his signature simple and straightforward style: “We know the digital experience is becoming more and more important to our customers.”

So far, so good. BMW AG announced last week that it had beaten long-time rival Mercedes-Benz to crown luxury car sales for the first time since 2015 after better weathering a semiconductor shortage that has halted car production globally.

Deliveries of BMW-branded vehicles jumped 9% to a record 2.2 million last year, surpassing Mercedes’ nearly 2.1 million.

Hannah Elliot,

Bloomberg

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