BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA dazzles with color-shifting feature

At this year’s Frieze Los Angeles art fair, the BMW Group revealed its newest creation, a blend of art and technology inspired by the artistic style of South African artist Esther Mahlangu. Named the BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA, this vehicle stands out as a unique masterpiece. It represents the company’s innovative color-change technology through its covering of electronically-animated film, developed in collaboration with E Ink. This technology allows for vibrant, shifting patterns to move across the car’s body and wheels, serving as a modern homage to the BMW Art Car Mahlangu designed in 1991. That particular car, a BMW 525i, was significant for being the first Art Car created by a woman and an African artist.

The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA, named in honor of Mahlangu’s first son, marks another significant milestone over three decades later. At 88 years old, Mahlangu’s signature colors and shapes are reimagined on this fully-electric sedan, merging tradition with innovation. The car achieves this effect through the use of electronically-animated film applied in strips across various sections of the vehicle. BMW likens this technology to an e-book reader, with millions of microcapsules in the E Ink film capable of changing color through electrical voltage. The car features 1,349 laser-cut film sections, each individually controllable, allowing for a precise representation of Mahlangu’s intricate designs that can dynamically change.

Beyond its visual appeal, the BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA features a soundscape by Renzo Vitale, BMW Group’s Creative Director, Sound. This auditory experience draws from South African Ndebele culture and includes elements such as Mahlangu’s voice and the sound of the feather brushes she uses in her painting. These are blended with the sounds of color pencils from the BMW design studio and the acoustic feedback from the BMW i5’s touch display, further bridging South African heritage with modern technology.

BMW has noted the swift advancement of its color-changing technology. Introduced in 2022 with the BMW iX Flow, which could switch between white and black, the technology evolved to include color with the BMW i Vision Dee, which displayed thirty-two colors across 240 film sections. The BMW i5 Flow NOSTOKANA advances this technology further with 1,349 film sections that offer increased durability and a wider color palette. Although this technology promises potential for series production, the Esther Mahlangu-inspired vehicle will, for the time being, remain a singular creation.