BMW’s colour-changing car offers a glimpse of the future

BMW says the i Vision DEE can change between 32 colours  (E Ink)
BMW says the i Vision DEE can change between 32 colours (E Ink)

Ever wished you could change the colour of your car on a whim? The BMW i Vision DEE electric car can do just that.

BMW showed off this striking tech at CES 2023 in Las Vegas but – here’s the stinger – it’s a concept car unlikely to ever be seen on London forecourts.

The BMW i Vision DEE’s body is covered in colour-changing panels, 240 of the things. Each is an E Ink screen that can display one of 32 colours. This tech is similar to that of an Amazon Kindle e-reader. High-resolution E-ink screens use millions of microcapsules that are brought to the front of the display using an electrical field.

The BMW i Vision DEE’s finish can shift on the fly and only uses power when changing colour. Not that the power consumption would compare to that of driving around London anyway.

The underlying tech here is called E Ink Prism 3. E Ink itself said the film can generate eight colours not 32, so it looks as if BMW is using patterns of tones to generate even more options on the concept car.

This isn’t the first time BMW has partnered with E Ink. Almost exactly a year ago it showed off the BMW iX Flow, with bodywork that could turn from white to black at the touch of a button. You probably see much more of E Ink than you realise, as its displays are commonly used as supermarket shelf price tags to reduce paper waste.

Virtual reality windscreen

There’s a bit more to the BMW i Vision DEE concept than just those 240 E Ink panels. It also introduces the idea of the mixed reality slider. This is a heads-up display built into the windscreen. It can ramp up from a translucent row of important info at the bottom of the windscreen to a full VR-like experience that obscures the outside world.

That probably doesn’t sound sensible but these concept cars are here to give you a tantalising taste of a company’s juiced-up aspirations, not what you’ll be driving to a Deptford McDonald’s Drive Thru in 2023.

However, while your next car probably won’t change colour, which would make the slightest prang an even more expensive mistake, it may well have a windscreen head-up display. BMW first introduced a in-windscreen head-up display in 2004 and went full colour in the 2012 BMW 5 Series.