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You may soon change your car’s colour with the touch of a button

MUNICH (BLOOMBERG) – BMW Group wants to let you change the colour of your car with the touch of a button.

On Wednesday (Jan 5), it debuted a concept vehicle called the BMW iX Flow, which uses electrophoretic technology to change colours from black to white or combine black and white in a kaleidoscope of graphics across the surface of its body.

The iX Flow is based on the electric iX SUV that BMW debuted in 2021.

“The car dresses you, it expresses you – not just from the inside but from the outside – so we have tried to create a technology and adapted it to the car that allows you to do that,” Mr Christoph Grote, senior vice president of electronics at BMW Group, said during a roundtable interview during the launch.

He also noted that being able to change a vehicle from dark to light while driving under hot temperatures would help with efficiency and thermal regulation inside the vehicle.

BMW worked with a company called E-Ink to develop the application for vehicles. Founded in 1997, E-Ink developed the technology used in Kindle readers and commercial displays for such brands as Sony and Amazon.com.

BMW’s application of e-ink works via a wrap tailored to cover the entire body of the SUV. The wrap contains different colour pigments that, when stimulated by various electrical signals, will rise to the surface of the skin, causing it to change hue.

Mr Adrian van Hooydonk, the head of BMW Group Design, called the colour-changing technology on the iX Flow, which has not been confirmed for production, part of the group’s plan to develop “human-centric” products that stimulate all senses. BMW has said it will spend 30 billion euros (S$46 billion) on future-oriented technologies by 2025.

“For us, digitalisation is about the total experience, and emotions that can be created with it,” Mr van Hooydonk said during the roundtable interview.

The company had planned a full programme of in-person events at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas but cancelled in favor of the virtual reveals streamed from Munich amid a rise in novel coronavirus cases.

The E-Ink was one of several new technologies BMW has developed to immerse the user in personalised digital environments in and outside its vehicles.

So-called “My Modes”, set for launch in the second half of 2022, include one that displays digital artwork inside the car’s cabin and a theatre mode that improves entertainment in the rear portion of the cabin.

Modes called Expressive and Relax are characterised by customisable sounds and digital patterns splayed across the vehicle. The effect sounds similar to the comfort technologies such as “Energizing” and “Warmth” modes that Mercedes-Benz has provided in many of its luxury vehicles; BMW executives say theirs are different and must be experienced to be appreciated.

BMW Group is developing the specific soundscapes for all-electric models in its vehicles with the multiple award-winning film score composer Hans Zimmer, who most recently developed the soundtrack for Dune. (No word yet if you’ll get a booming BRAAAM when you hit the gas.)

“Sound… gives us the possibility of moving 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 glide with invisible technology. Electricity is invisible, and anything invisible and with that power automatically is a good step into that future.”

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