CES 2023

BMW’s wild color-changing car just got a lot more real

A concept car unveiled at CES 2023 can change color thanks to an E Ink exterior.

Jon Wilde / Inverse

A color-changing car seems like something straight out of James Bond, but BMW today unveiled one at CES 2023. The questionably-named BMW i Vision Dee concept car has 240 E Ink panels that can change between 32 different colors.

Each segment is controlled individually, allowing for a vast variety of patterns to be created at the touch of a button. Last year, BMW debuted the iX Flow, which used similar tech to change between black and white and many shades of gray in between. We gave it a tongue-in-cheek award for “coolest concept that will never happen,” but with BMW rolling out version 2.0 just a year later, perhaps there’s something to this.

The current E Ink panels are assembled by hand, but could eventually be commercialized and mass-produced.BMW

At a BMW CES preview in Munich last month, I met Stella Clarke, the Australian engineer behind iX Flow and head of a small team at BMW headquarters responsible for the project.

The team hand-assembles everything, laser-cutting the film to fit an endless number of shapes on the car, each wired up for control and power. The technology is similar to that of an e-reader and only requires electricity when changing from one color to another.

Jon Wilde / Inverse

The trickiest part is adapting the film, which doesn’t particularly want to bend, for curved surfaces like the exterior of a car. One of the demos we saw was of a prototype wheel with a dozen or so panels all displaying different colors. Want your ride to display the L.A. Lakers colors of yellow and purple? You can do that at the touch of a button. Or what about Dodger blue? Easy.

BMW engineer Stella Clarke, the E Ink project lead, runs a small team at BMW’s Munich headquarters.

The full-color — BMW’s E Ink is still in the prototype stages, but it works and looks terrific (at least in the demonstration preview form that I viewed it in). But Clarke told Inverse that there was nothing technical or engineering-wise that would prevent the concept from going into production, aside from a lot more development work.

The BMW i Vision Dee concept car is meant to show what a combination of hardware and software makes possible in a future automobile. The car has an intelligent, Alexa-like AI and animated “features” with headlights that respond like the eyes in Pixar’s Cars movies.

For consumers, though, having a color-changing car could provide uses beyond just showing off. If you’re having trouble finding your car in a parking lot, for example, the car could blink at you. Or, if the car detects that someone in the vehicle is having a medical emergency, it could flash to attract the attention of first responders.

Vaporware or not, all I know is: I want it.

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INVERSE brings you everything from the fun and futuristic world of consumer technology at CES 2023. For all the latest technology coverage from the show, go to the INVERSE CES 2023 hub.

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