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BMW shows off an electric car with color-changing paint at CES 2022

From engine sounds to seat massagers, modern cars let drivers personalize almost everything. At CES 2022, BMW is taking that idea a step further with a concept version of its iX electric SUV that sports color-changing paint.

The effect relies on E Ink, the same electronic paper technology used in e-readers. Millions of microcapsules approximately the diameter of a human hair are embedded in an exterior wrap made from laser-cut electronic paper segments, according to BMW. They contain negatively charged white pigments and positively charged black pigments. Activating an electric field causes different amounts of each pigment to collect on the surface, shifting the color between black, white, and gray with the press of a button.

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While those three shades don’t make for a very vibrant color palette, BMW sees a couple of noteworthy uses for this technology. The ability to change a car’s color instantly offers greater possibilities for personalization, and it could even help improve the efficiency of EVs, the automaker claims.

A white surface reflects a lot more sunlight than a black surface, BMW noted. Shifting colors could help control cabin temperature, using a white exterior to cool things down on a hot day, or a black surface to keep heat in during winter. That means less power from the battery pack is needed for climate control.

While the BMW iX is scheduled to arrive at United States dealerships later this year, don’t expect color-changing paint to be an option. BMW said it is only an “advanced research and design project,” and it’s unclear how the surface will stand up to weather, road debris, or car washes.

BMW also brought out a sportier version of the iX at CES 2022. The 2023 BMW iX M60 boasts 610 horsepower in its most aggressive Sport Boost mode, compared to the standard car’s 516 hp. That will get this 5,679-pound SUV from zero to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and up to a top speed of 155 mph (with summer tires), according to BMW. However, while the standard iX exceeds 300 miles of range, BMW only expects the M60 to go 280 miles on a charge. The M60 is scheduled to reach U.S. dealerships in June of this year.

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