Color-changing BMW i5 is more than just a gimmick

Max McDee, 01 March 2024

BMW is known for its luxurious, high-performance vehicles, but its latest creation is turning heads for an entirely different reason. The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA unveiled at the Frieze Los Angeles art fair, can change colors on command thanks to a collaboration with E Ink and South African artist Esther Mahlangu.

BMW first debuted its color-changing E Ink technology at CES 2022 with the iX Flow concept SUV. This vehicle could seamlessly switch between black and white, demonstrating the potential for interesting personalization and even practical applications. For instance, a white car could reflect more heat in the summer, while a black car could absorb more heat during colder months, potentially improving energy efficiency.

The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA is undeniably cool from a technological standpoint. The standard BMW i5 is covered in sections of E Ink film, the same material found in e-readers. These films contain millions of microcapsules filled with color pigments that can be rearranged using an electric voltage. Through animation, the i5 Flow NOSTOKANA can display Mahlangu's signature geometric patterns and colors in ever-changing sequences. It's visually striking, to be sure.

Color-changing BMW i5 is more than just a gimmick

While the tech is intriguing, it begs the question of "why"? Would someone really want their car to look like a flamboyant digital chameleon? Sure, it could grab attention at car shows and tech fairs, but does it have staying power? Well, we only need to look at emergency vehicles that could employ this tech for greater visibility - an ambulance or police car directing traffic around an accident scene, or a school bus warning other road users about kids running around. The entire marketing world is already itching to use this tech on trucks and any flat surfaces they can get their hands on.

The cost could be an initial factor in skepticism. This type of technology is bound to be expensive - more than the average buyer might want to spend on a paint job. But as the technology improves, it gets cheaper. Sure, safety concerns arise as well - could these ever-changing colors distract other drivers?

Color-changing BMW i5 is more than just a gimmick

This color-changing tech is moving surprisingly fast. The BMW iX Flow from 2022 had only two colors. The concept car BMW iVision Dee came with 240 separate film pieces applied to it, all capable of displaying 32 colors. The i5 Flow is covered in 1,349 pieces of the new-gen film, with each piece individually controlled and can apparently display even more colors - how many exactly? BMW didn’t share that detail.

While a fully color-changing car might be impractical at the moment, the underlying technology could hold some promise. Imagine using E Ink to display subtle safety messages like turn signals or hazard warnings. Or, perhaps E Ink can help your car better regulate internal temperatures with color-changing panels that reflect or absorb sunlight. The film itself is apparently robust enough now to withstand normal vehicle use. Those cars with flashing messages we’re used to seeing in sci-fi movies - they seem to be making their way to our reality rather quickly. Soon you’ll be able to see your favorite taco bus from miles away.

We can't possibly imagine what it's like to drive a BMW, or any car in fact, wrapped up in color changing film. But we know exactly what it's like to drive the new BMW i5 M60 and we share that experience in our comprehensive review right here.



Reader comments

well...I never heard any of these cars' owners being pulled over due to factory vinyl. another example, I had a mini cooper s. that car had red base color, piano black roof and black&white stripes on the hood. no police gave a ticket since t...

Cars like CH-R, AygoX have red base colour, black cladding, black roof, the whole back side is wrapped in black vinyl (or something like that) and in every legal paper it states ... red.

if it is partially wrapped with stripes like (ferrari 430 scuderia) or has 2 colors (like peugeot 308 gti) from the factory, it is written in the registration and you have no problem.



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