BMW’s Color-Changing Paint Technology May Actually Be Happening

If you ever dreamed of owning the color-changing horse from the Emerald City, have we got good news for you. The color-changing paint technology that we saw on the BMW iX M60 in January may be closer to reality than we first thought.

BMW’s horse(power) of a different color

Side view of the BMW iX M60 Electric SUV with color-changing paint, with colors slowly changing from black to white front to back. The background is a black-and-white abstract pattern
BMW iX M60 electric SUV with E-Ink color-changing paint | BMW

BMW’s color-changing car first arrived in January at the CES consumer electronics show. At the time, BMW claimed the show was “just for research and demonstration purposes.” It’s still likely that a luxury car or SUV fully clothed in this technology won’t be a reality for another few years, but new information suggests that the automaker may be closer to real-life chameleon skills than we thought.

CarBuzz reports that this technology may start showing up in BMW interiors sooner, under the name “E Paper”. 

We imagine it would be similar to Mercedes-Benz’s ambient lighting system, which can let you adjust the color of your cabin to suit your mood. Audi filed a patent for color changing paint back in the fall of 2021, but not much has come from that since. BMW’s LED-illuminated grille idea is much more practical. We’ll likely be seeing color-changing grille borders on a variety of BMW models relatively soon.

Is E-Ink color-changing paint actually paint?

How does BMW’s color-changing paint work? It’s similar to the technology used in today’s e-readers, which is pretty cool.

“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.”

This is more than just color-shifting paint, which can change shade or shimmer based on the angle you look at it. This is actually a highly advanced technical paint. There are a lot of questions around legality and cost surrounding E-Ink, though. That may keep a color-changing luxury car a fantasy for another few years.

Paint tech opens up new paths for customizations

Front end of the color-changing paint on the BMW iX M60 SUV. Black and white body panels compliment the black-and-white abstract background
BMW iX M60 with E-Ink | BMW

We know that consumers like customization and personalization—especially on their $60,000+ luxury cars. The availability of color-changing paint on a premium SUV or sedan would be a major game-changer. Drivers who love the sporty attitudes of the high-performance M Series would likely be thrilled to swap color to color.

This could even open up crazy possibilities for business. If E-Ink could cover a full car and have a full color spectrum available, businesses could have rotating ads on their company vehicles. Then, they wouldn’t need to swap out pricey wraps.

Since this is the first tech of its kind, there likely aren’t any current laws regarding color-changing paint. However, if this technology becomes available and common, it may lead to the creation of a few laws about registration, at least. 

Art Radar Journal has a cool write-up about legal questions surrounding painting cars and “color-shift” paint jobs. Color-shift paint is a non-technical application of paint that can change shade or sheen. One of those jobs can cost over $10,000.  

This high-tech paint would likely jack up the price of any new BMW wearing it. But, there’s no hint for how color-changing paint could affect trade-in and resale value of a model that hit the used-car market after purchase.

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