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Dee, the color-changing car unveiled by BMW

BMW and E Ink do it again, but this time, in color

One of the world’s largest luxury sports vehicle companies has stepped up the game when it comes to vehicular expression, and they’re doing it with color that changes on demand.

BMW impressed the audience during their keynote at CES 2023 when they unveiled the world’s first ever, dynamic, color-changing, all-electric, smart car they call “Dee.” The vehicle was highlighted in many ways, primarily in its advanced artificial intelligence interface, which could very closely resemble human interactions and responses. But the most stunning element was the alternative version shown at the end of the keynote that was enveloped with a grid of individually-controlled, color-changing panels which allowed the vehicle to change colors, take on patterns, or run animations, all in real time. BMW partnered with the smart screen company, E Ink, and first showcased their work at CES 2022 with their all-electric concept car, the BMW iX Flow, which dazzled the audience with it’s black and white color-changing panels. Since then, BMW has advanced this innovation to a full-color experience, and as their CEO said, “We are never satisfied.” This car seems to express this pretty clearly.

E Ink is quite an advanced technology, though it works in a relatively simple way. E Ink panels are covered in a layer of thousands to millions of small microcapsules similar in size to a human hair, each containing positively and negatively charged particles suspended in a highly viscous fluid within each capsule. Different base colors are assigned to different charges of particles, and through controlled electromagnetism, these particles are moved around and mixed with each other. Whichever particles are repelled to the visible side of the microcapsule will determine what color the capsule looks like to the human eye, and combined with the other microcapsules covering the panel, the entire panel changes color.

This technology has been around for a number of years now and has improved greatly since its beginning. This has allowed for more colors that can be shown and allowed for really tight compaction of the microcapsules, so tight in fact, that they’ve been used to make unlit displays and paper-like screens. But taking E Ink and applying it to a vehicle’s exterior is quite an exotic concept that has presented substantial benefits. Not only can it make the car visually stunning, but it can help control the temperature in the car by changing the exterior color to reflect or absorb the sun’s rays. And losing the car in a parking lot would be a thing of the past. Simply press a button and the car will start changing colors, clearly standing out. Instead of small car lights flashing to indicate a turn, the entire (turning) side of the car can become the turn signal. All of this is complimented by the fact that E Ink only consumes power when changing colors, taking no electricity to hold color, making it very energy efficient and very adaptable to battery-operated devices, such as a car.

There are, however, some concerning aspects of color changing cars, the biggest one being how other drivers will respond to another vehicle suddenly changing from a bold red to a royal blue while on the road. Would other drivers get startled or could they get distracted? Will Dee be unable to change colors while driving or be limited to subtle animations while on the road? Or by the time it is released, will more cars drive themselves, lessening these concerns? Time will tell. But regardless, the idea of being able to give a car a new look without the effort and expense of repainting it every time is remarkable. Whatever ends up happening, it looks like the future of vehicular innovation will be colorful, in a very stylish way.