BMW’s iX Flow concept was billed as “the world’s first color-changing car” at CES a year ago. At the time, the iX electric crossover’s various panels could be switched between white, black, and gray.

Now, for 2023, meet the upgrade: actual colors.

BMW debuted the I Vision Dee at this year’s CES, an electric sports sedan concept that previewed a slew of technologies that could be available in the near future, such as AI-powered virtual assistants and full-windshield heads-up displays. However, it also included a full-color version of the E Ink technology seen on last year’s concept for the first time.

This means that the I Vision Dee, which resembles a cross between a vintage BMW and a Tesla, can change colors on the fly. Instead of just black, white, and gray, there are now 32 options. Furthermore, the I Vision Dee is made up of 240 E Ink e-paper segments, each of which can be controlled independently. This means that the I Vision Dee can change to a single solid color or put on a spectacular light show.

“Within seconds, an almost infinite variety of patterns can be generated and varied,” BMW said in a statement.

Dee made her color-shifting debut onstage with Knight Rider’s KITT, Herbie the Love Bug, and Arnold Schwarzenegger during BMW’s CES keynote on Wednesday night. (You had no choice but to be present.) Schwarzenegger also appeared in this short film, which shows how Dee’s advanced features work:

BMW’s concepts rely on technology developed by the US-based E Ink Corporation, which is responsible for e-readers and a variety of smartwatches. A car’s film coating contains tiny microcapsules with pigments that change when electricity is applied. While E Ink has been used in a variety of applications over the years, BMW claims it is unique to the automotive industry, having been developed and programmed in-house by engineers.

Furthermore, this concept makes use of the most recent E Ink technology, Prism 3 film, which is fully programmable and designed to be low on power consumption for sustainability. Prism 3 can also be manufactured in any shape, allowing for seemingly limitless industrial design applications.

“E Ink’s display technology is ultra-low power because it is bistable,” according to a press release from the company. “When combined with the industry-leading energy efficiency of digital paper, E Ink is enabling its partners to disrupt industries through sustainable technologies, and has been integrated into everything from eReaders to cell phones to medical wearables to logistical tags and digital signage.”

The e-paper segments were also used on the concept’s wheels and grille, the latter of which creates “facial expressions” as its AI assistant reacts to various inputs.

Will color-changing BMWs ever be produced? For the time being, it’s an in-house R&D project, but it’s garnered a lot of attention both within the automaker and in the wider world. According to SlashGear, the project’s brains, Australian engineer Stella Clarke and her team, have been working on developing and refining the e-paper since last year’s CES.

They’re currently working on making the e-paper panels more durable and resistant to things like flying insects and car washes. As of now, standard road damage renders panels inoperable, as seen on the black-and-white iX Flow. The team’s ultimate goal is to create a spray that can be easily applied to body panels, but that is a long way off. The costs are also unknown, though Clarke hinted that they might be lower than you think.

Nobody knows. If BMW can go from black and white to dazzling rainbow displays in a year, perhaps E Ink will be the next must-have option for anyone looking to show off their M3.


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