CES 2022

BMW’s latest EV concept has a cool-as-hell color-changing paint job

At CES 2022, BMW showed off the iX Flow SUV EV concept that changes colors via an app.

When I think of E Ink, my natural next thought is e-readers. There have been some creative applications of the technology that haven’t been exclusively about reading books — the Onyx Boox Mira Pro E Ink monitor comes to mind — but nothing quite like what BMW showed off at CES 2022. Because BMW used E Ink to make a color-changing car.

Color change via an app — The BMW iX Flow concept isn’t a real product and E Ink might not ever show up as an upgrade option for the company’s already pricy electric BMW iX but as a proof of concept, it's incredibly impressive. With the tap of an accompanying smartphone app (at least in BMW’s demo) the SUV shifts from black to white and back again in a few seconds. You could change colors to further express yourself, to help the car better regulate temperature on a hot or cool day, or have your iX visually tell you information like the amount of battery left in your car.

A video demonstrating the BMW iX Flow's color-changing E Ink body wrap shifting from white to black and back again.BMW

E-reader tech — The process that makes this happen is more or less the same as what you find in your Kobo Sage or Kindle Paperwhite, except rather than a flat display, BMW has introduced microcapsules holding electrophoretic pigments into the actual body wrap of the car.

“Each of these microcapsules contains negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments,” BMW claims. “Depending on the chosen setting, stimulation by means of an electrical field causes either the white or the black pigments to collect at the surface of the microcapsule, giving the car body the desired shade.”

The BMW iX Flow in all-black, heat conservation mode.BMW

More range? — A color-changing car demo at CES 2022 is definitely meant to be something to gawk at, but there are possible real-world advantages to including a feature like this on an electric car. Since a white surface reflects more light and a black one generally absorbs more heat, the E Ink coating could help the iX conserve energy. “In an all-electric car, changing the color in line with the weather can therefore also help to increase the range,” BMW claims.

But even more important than that, it’s cool as hell.