The future could see you changing the color of your car with the touch of a button. The technology already exists, as BMW showcased Tuesday at CES, the annual consumer technology trade show in Las Vegas. The car maker unveiled an SUV whose exterior can change from white to black and back again in a moment. That's due to its exterior coating featuring electronic ink, or e-ink, used in electronic displays including e-readers, per Engadget. It's embedded with tiny microcapsules containing positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles.
"Depending on the setting, applying an electrical charge to the material will cause either the white or black pigments to rise to the top of the microcapsule, changing the vehicle's color in moments," per Engadget. "You choose the clothes you wear. You choose your social media status. And you can choose the color of your car," Stella Clarke, head of the project dubbed BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink, said during a video demonstration, per USA Today. However, the technology—which "is nowhere near production ready," per Engadget—is limited to shades of black and white for now. Per LifeWire, e-ink couldn't even display color until 2016.
Looking ahead, BMW envisions a vehicle that can switch to any color of the rainbow depending on a driver's wishes. Or, as Clarke noted, a driver could trigger a flashing of colors to draw their attention if they had trouble locating the vehicle in a parking lot. The color could also be changed in response to weather, with a lighter shade reducing the need for air conditioning under a hot sun. "In the future, digital experiences will not only take place on displays," said Frank Weber, a member of BMW AG's board of management, per USA Today. "With the BMW iX Flow, we are bringing the car body to life." (Read more BMW stories.)