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BMW has a concept car that changes color at the push of a button

Darth Vader was fiercely loyal to black… but that doesn't mean you have to be.

By Benjamin Bullard
BMW color-changing car YT

Ever bought a black car and instantly regretted it because of how fast it shows off your procrastination skills at car washing? Welp, BMW may have just figured out a way to assuage the dirty-car buyer’s remorse that comes with springing for the Darth Vader look…and it’s as easy as pressing a button.

In its continued bid to earn the same reputation for sharp electric vehicles that it’s long enjoyed with old-school petrol-heads, the German automaker has deployed a wild technology that can alter a car’s shade on command: Just coat the whole thing with smart electronic panels that can switch things up digitally. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), BMW introduced a novel new application of familiar E Ink tech to lend some zing to a pre-production concept version of its all-electric iX sport activity vehicle.

So far, the color-changing palette is limited to only the monochromatic spectrum — you know, black, white, and every shade of grey in between. But BMW says it’s hard at work on advancing the tech to include other colors. In the meantime, seeing it happen right before your eyes is impressive enough, as the company’s in-depth video shows below (scroll to the 3-minute mark to get straight to the fun stuff):

Pretty far out, right? The “Flow” concept version of the BMW iX was born of the company’s pursuit of customer-friendly choices to add loads of cosmetic versatility to what’s admittedly a pretty pricey purchase. The Flow uses the same E Ink technology that e-book readers already enjoy whenever they browse an article on devices like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. But on the iX Flow, the digitally-activated film that powers e-books is instead draped across all the outward-facing body panels.

BMW explains the complexity (as well as the whole grey-scale limitation it’s trying to surpass) at the vehicle’s website: “The body is laminated with an electrophoretic film containing microcapsules the diameter of a human hair. Each capsule contains differently charged white, black, or colored particles which become visible when an electric field is applied. This creates what is known as an Electronic Paper Display (EPD).”

Though it’s not expected to show up on a production car anytime soon, it’s a first step in what BMW hopes is a choose-your-color “personalization” quest that future car buyers can someday take for granted. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Vader picked his color and stuck with it right ’til the bitter end…but in the not too distant future, drivers right here on Earth might never have to do the same.