There's no need to start with black and white here, nor with the usual psychedelic squiggles. Anyone who has ever experienced the blaze of color of the nocturnal light show on Las Vegas Boulevard has lost sight of a normal prototype. Apparently VW also recognized this and came up with something special for the camouflaged world premiere of the ID7.
Before the prototype is finally unveiled in spring and starts around autumn as an electric alternative to the Passat, it shimmered in almost every color of the rainbow at CES a few weeks ago - and can also change these colors.
Here, VW has applied more than 40 different layers of paint, some of which are made to glow electrically and make the sedan a chameleon among electricians. The appearance of the Wolfsburg fit perfectly into the time.
"Because the color palette on our streets is becoming more colorful again," says Mark Gutjahr, who is responsible for design at the supplier BASF Coatings in Münster. “With the increasing electrification of the car, more and more models are vying for attention and numerous new manufacturers are also coming into play. That goes right through to the color fan,” says the designer, attesting to the courage of his colleagues at the manufacturers to use eye-catching tones.
But regardless of whether it's pastel or traditional, muted or blatantly colorful - there's actually only one trend color at the moment, at least in a figurative sense: green.
"Because in the effort to keep the CO₂ footprint as small as possible and ultimately climate-neutral production, the paint is also increasingly coming into focus," says Marco Benen from Sustainability Management at BASF Coatings.
The industry can hardly avoid chemicals and only a few components can be replaced by renewable raw materials, even if there are corresponding efforts, explains Benen. But with the shortening of supply chains, with sustainable process energy and with the CO₂ input as a selection criterion for individual components of the paint, the footprint of the color can definitely be reduced.
However, the processing is almost more important than the components of the paint, explains the expert. After all, the different layers have to be literally burned into the sheet metal in the car factory's paint shop.
"If a shift is saved or the process temperature is reduced by a few degrees, then significant amounts of CO₂ can be saved over the year," says Benen.
Industry makes another contribution to sustainability with layers of paint that can repair themselves. Because at least small scratches heal by themselves under the heat of the sun, not every damaged component has to be repainted immediately, according to BASF expert Matthijs Groenewolt, who researches clear coats. This saves the customer money and the environment another CO₂ entry.
But the researchers in Münster not only have to do justice to the growing awareness of sustainability. She is also driven by a second trend, although at first glance it has nothing to do with color, says Michaela Liese, who is responsible for Color Center Europe: "Driver assistance systems right through to autonomous driving."
Because in order for cars to eventually find the right way on their own, they rely primarily on lidar, radar and cameras. "And the first two work better with some colors and worse with some," explains the expert.
That is why she is researching special paints that prevent the waves escaping from the transmitter vehicles as little as possible, and those that reflect them particularly well on the receiver vehicles. "And in the ideal case, a paint naturally fulfills both properties, because every transmitter vehicle can also be a receiver and vice versa."
VW was not alone with the play of colors at the CES, but BMW has now come for the second year with a show car that uses the e-ink technology known from electronic books.
While last year they could only switch between black and white, this time the experience is also available in color – in almost three dozen different tones and even more patterns.
"Because the echo was so powerful that we wanted to continue this thread," says project manager Stella Clarke: "Just as you choose your clothes in the morning according to the current mood, you can then change the color of the car according to your mood and make the car an expression of its personality.”
However, the topic of sustainability also resonates here, says BMW Head of Development Frank Weber: Because the advantage of e-ink technology is that the color change is almost free of charge in terms of energy: "We only need electricity to switch, after that the new color remains by itself.” It doesn't matter whether it's lemon yellow, aubergine or strawberry red – that's why the Vision Dee is basically a green car.
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