The Evolution of Color-Changing Cars

Sep 20, 2023

A car changing color between gold and green - color changing cars

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Do you remember playing with color-changing Hot Wheels as a kid? Just a dunk in cold water and they’d change color and design in an instant. With the release of BMW’s iVision Dee earlier this year, those summer games with Hot Wheels could soon become road trips with real color-changing cars.

Drive down memory lane and learn more about the evolution of color-changing cars. It’s going to get technical, so strap in and enjoy the ride.

Color Changing Paint Jobs

In 2019, Instagram artist Iskander Utebayev posted a viral video of a color-changing Lamborghini color-changing that could switch colors and patterns at the touch of a button. You may have thought it was real — but the video was CGI.

While such high-tech color changing technology wasn’t available, people have been finding ways to upgrade their cars with color-shifting paint and vinyl wraps for years. It’s one of the automotive industry trends that’s here to stay. 

Liquid Crystal Paint

Liquid crystal paint works similarly to the color-changing Hot Wheels. The paint changes its color based on surface temperature and is completely reversible. For example, a blue liquid crystal car will remain blue at 31 degrees Celsius then change to red at 27 degrees Celsius or green at 29 degrees Celsius. 

color changing cars

Chameleon Paint

Iridescent paint, also known as chameleon pearlescent paint, contains finely ground pigments made of aluminum. Since the pearlescent particles that make up the pigment are so fine, they have the ability to separate light and reflect it as different colors. 

The paint changes color according to the base paint used, weather, viewing angle and surroundings. A car could be blue but also appear purple, orange and pink depending on the angle of the viewer.

Chameleon paint jobs use a three-stage system with a black base layer, the iridescent layer and then a clear layer. While it used to be expensive to achieve this look, the cost to produce the pigments has decreased over time. 

Color Shift Wraps 

Color shift vinyls are similar to chameleon paint. They’re made up of several layers of vinyl that show different colors at different angles. The options vary from matte to glossy or glittery so you can get the stunning look you’ve always imagined to turn heads.  

Electroluminescent Paint

Electroluminescent paints give that option through their ability to conduct an electric current. This paint has layers that produce a glow-in-the-dark appearance that can be switched on or off with a button. 

Okay, it’s not exactly color-changing — but it does change the appearance of the color by emitting light. Electroluminescent paint jobs use two power remittance layers, which will connect to the power source, a dielectric or insulating layer, a pigment layer and a final gloss layer to achieve the light-up look. 

color changing cars

BMW’s Color Changing iX Flow

In 2022, BMW showcased its novel color paint technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The iX Flow can change between white, black and grey with the touch of a button. The German automaker developed this color-changing car concept using E ink, the electronic paper technology used to make e-readers like the Kindle.

The E Ink surface coating has millions of microcapsules that contain negatively charged white pigment and positively charged black pigments. When an electric charge is applied, it causes either the white or black tincture to collect at the microcapsule’s surface. It then changes to the chosen shade. 

When the company showed off the car, they stated their developments could have implications for future electric vehicles. Who knew we would see stunning multicolored displays from iVision Dee a year later? 

BMW iVision Dee 

Dee made her epic debut during the CES, accompanied by Herbie the Love Bug and Knight Rider’s KITT. Of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger was there since he stars in “The Dee Movie,” explaining how the sedan’s color shifting works.

The color-changing sports sedan concept with 240 individually controlled segments can change to 32 possible colors. Using E Ink technology in color for the first time, Dee can change to a host of different patterns and hues. It’s all the driver’s choice. Within seconds you can change a solid car to a car with racing stripes and channel your inner F1 driver. 

For this color-shifting version, BMW developed the E ink tech into Prism 3 film. This film is low on power consumption, fully programmable and can be manufactured in any shape and design. And it doesn’t stop there. iVision Dee’s wheels can also change color and she has an inbuilt personal avatar and a grille that changes facial expressions. Dee can speak, listen and understand your desires. 

How Much Would the iVison Dee Cost? 

Stella Clarke, BMW’s Project Lead, hinted that the costs might be lower than people would think. While it’s not available on the market right now, there’s no doubt we could see cars like Dee on the road soon.

Currently, BMW is working on making the e-paper panels more resilient. The panels need to be strong enough to withstand flying insects, car washes and slight damage that would render the panels nonfunctional. Ultimately, the goal is to make a spray that can be applied to the panels, but that’s another project for the future. 

A color blue and purple car - color changing cars

Are Color-Changing Cars Environmentally Friendly?

Looking for an indication of the energy-efficient properties of the iVision Dee? E Ink technology only draws power during the color change and there’s no electricity needed for the car to maintain the chosen color.

The color-changing properties also make it energy efficient. When the iFlow was showcased, one of the selling points was that during summer, white or light colors reflect sunlight, keeping the interior cool while black and dark colors absorb sunlight and warm the car in winter. That translates to energy efficiency since drivers would rely less on the car’s climate control systems. 

What’s Next for Color-Changing Cars?

If BMW can achieve a multicolor display on the surface of a car, just a year from launching black-and-white color-shifting technology, you could own an E Ink display car in the next ten years or purchase BMW’s color-changing spray. One thing that is certain is that color-changing cars will never stop being exciting for kids and adult drivers alike.

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.