BMW originally introduced E Ink technology at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show where the iX Flow electric SUV was able to change its exterior finish from black to white and everything in between. For this year’s CES in Las Vegas, the i Vision Dee concept took the tech to the next level by featuring up to 32 true colors, not just nuances of black and white.

While this may seem like a gimmick at a first glance, the Munich-based automaker believes it has a real application. E Ink project leader Stella Clarke told Automotive News an ePaper film could be applied to ambulances and other types of emergency vehicles. Her thinking is that these individually controllable, laser-cut films could make cars more visible than traditional blinking lights. Consequently, it could shorten the time an ambulance needs to reach its destination as traffic participants would get out of the way sooner.

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A second application in the real world pertains to efficiency. It’s a known fact that black cars tend to get hotter on the inside during the summer, so using E Ink to give the vehicle a lighter color would reduce the use of air conditioning to cool down the interior. That would be particularly useful for EVs where range anxiety remains an issue. A darker body on a cloudy day would diminish the need of turning on AC to heat the cabin.

Clarke explained E Ink would have minimal energy impact since it would only need power when switching from one color to another. It would hold the same color without using resources. For the i Vision Dee concept, BMW installed no fewer than 240 E Ink segments that could individually display 32 colors. It wasn’t just for the body as the wheels were also customizable.

It remains a prototype for the time being, but Clarke said the development will continue since BMW believes there is real interest in this technology. In addition, she said E Ink is “not that far off in terms of what it needs [regarding] technical specs” before adding “we’re going in that direction. I can say that for sure.”

Source: Automotive News