How Does the BMW Color-Changing Car Work?

From mood rings to cups that turn different shades when it gets hot, we all seem to have a slight obsession with objects that change color. It’s never been possible with something genuinely remarkable, like cars, but BMW might change that. The German company is in the process of developing new tech that could redefine the auto world. Or at least the color choices offered.

BMW has unveiled some very cool new tech

A Color-changing BMW in silver and black in front of a black and white background.
Color-changing BMW | Getty Images

The Verge reports that BMW recently revealed its latest tech option during the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The German automaker used the new 2022 iX M60 electric SUV to display its new color-changing technology, leaving everyone scrambling for a better view.

It’s taking personalization to a whole new level, but don’t get too excited. BMW isn’t ready to put out a car that can change from red to blue to orange with a touch of a button. The only current color choices are white, black, and gray. The good news is you don’t have to choose just one color, and BMW reports that you can even create moving patterns with this new paint. Some might be disappointed with the lack of choices, but there is still a wide range of possibilities.

Even so, it’s still a very cool concept. The only thing the driver needs to do to change the color is press a button. However, how did BMW do it?

How exactly does a car change colors?

Cars are becoming more and more like moving computers, and the new color-changing tech from BMW is taking it a step further. According to Kelley Blue Book, the color-changing tech is closely related to what is found on e-readers.

BMW told Kelley Blue Book, “The surface coating of the BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink contains many millions of microcapsules, with a diameter equivalent to the thickness of a human hair. Each of these microcapsules contains negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments. 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.”

So essentially, electricity is used to manipulate the microcapsules and change colors. BMW imagines this playing a role in keeping your vehicle hot or cold. For example, a white color scheme will keep the car cool in the summer, while changing the color to black will keep it warmer in the winter. 

Color changing paints won’t hit the market just yet

Sadly, this is all still in research and development. BMW has no plans to release the iX Flow technology just yet, so we’ll all just have to daydream about what we would do with a car that could change colors.

This will give BMW time to play around and answer some of our burning questions, though. For example, what happens if someone slams their car door into your vehicle, and the paint gets chipped? It’s not exactly like you can run down to your local auto shop and have it touched up. This would be even worse during bad weather like hail.

Another question would be how much it would cost. Technology like this won’t come cheap, and the already expensive BMWs could see a significant price hike. 

Since BMW has no intentions of releasing the tech just yet, it doesn’t have the answers to these questions at the moment. Even so, this could open the door for more tech opportunities in the auto world. Audi has already applied for a patent for color-changing paint, so we might have the next tailgate wars.

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