E-Ink technology has proven itself useful in many applications since its advent in 1997 — from digital whiteboards to laptop displays, even personal accessories. At CES 2022, that technology finally made its way to the automotive industry as BMW unveiled an e-ink vehicle exterior that can change colors depending on weather and traffic conditions, or just the driver’s mood.
In answer to your first question, no, this futuristic feature is nowhere near production ready despite appearing at the show on a live demonstration vehicle, dubbed the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink.
The electrophoretic coloring material itself is applied as a vehicle body wrap but works just like it e-ink displays do in your Kindle. The wrap is embedded with millions of microcapsules each containing a negatively-charged white pigment and a positively charged-black pigment. Depending on the setting, applying an electrical charge to the material will cause either the white or black pigments to rise to the top of the microcapsule, changing the vehicle’s color in moments.
While the current iteration can only swap between a pair of colors, the palette could eventually be expanded to display a rainbow’s worth of differing shades. “This gives the driver the freedom to express different facets of their personality or even their enjoyment of change outwardly, and to redefine this each time they sit into their car,” Stella Clarke, Head of Project for the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink, said in a prepared statement. “Similar to fashion or the status ads on social media channels, the vehicle then becomes an expression of different moods and circumstances in daily life.”
E-ink exterior displays could also prove useful in more practical applications such as changing colors depending on the weather to increase a vehicle’s battery life (and therefore, range) in cold climates or reduce the need for air conditioning in balmy weather.