Previewing BMW’s Next-Generation Electric Cars
You have to give BMW credit for being one of the most forward-looking of traditional car manufacturers. It was one of the pioneers in electrification, introducing the i3 city car and i8 sports car years before any other European luxury brand. It has broader and deeper expertise in electrification than most, and is fully committed to digitizing not just the driving experience but the full ownership experience. The company says that its future is electric and digital – and at the CES show in Las Vegas, it unveiled the i Vision Dee.
The minimalist four-door concept car, which combines a clean, modern style with some familiar BMW design cues, highlights the possibilities of digital technology, and gives a preview of the company’s next-generation electric platform, which it calls “neue klasse.” That platform will underpin a number of full-electric models which will fuse hardware and software in new and unprecedented ways.
“With the BMW i Vision Dee, we are showcasing what is possible when hardware and software merge to transform the car into an intelligent companion. That is the future for BMW: the fusion of the virtual experience with genuine driving pleasure,” said Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW.
Minimalist, Reductive Design Inside and Out
The exterior and interior of the BMW i Vision Dee has been deliberately pared back to focus on the digital experience. What’s left is a minimalist, forward-looking expression of the greatest BMW design cues. The exterior is a classic three-box sedan shape incorporating traditional elements like a stretched-out double-kidney “grille” and with the classic circular headlights reinterpreted as four LED slashes. BMW calls the lighting elements “phygital icons,” fusing classic physical elements with digital technology.
Inside, the reductive approach continues, with simple materials and minimal operating controls and displays to ensure nothing detracts from the experience. BMW claims a new feeling of “enhanced driving pleasure” which combines the physical and the digital. The steering wheel, which has a central vertical spoke, lights up similarly “phygital” touchpoints that come to life when approached or touched. They control content projected onto the windshield through the full-width heads-up display.
Full-Width Heads-Up Display
In the BMW i Vision Dee, a new heads-up display can project information across the entire width of the windshield. Under normal driving conditions, the full-width display takes up significantly less space, and also allows for an uncluttered interior design.
The i Vision Dee previews the BMW "mixed reality slider," which works in combination with the heads-up display. An example of BMW’s “shy tech” approach to tech features, drivers can decide how much content they want to see at any given time. A five-step selection goes from traditional analog gauges, to driving-related information, to the contents of the communications system, to augmented-reality projections like navigation instructions, right up to entry into virtual worlds.
Indeed, for entertainment purposes, fully dimmable windows can also be used to fade out reality, and the entire surface of the windshield can be taken over while the car is parked and charging.
Electric Ink Technology
In 2022, BMW previewed its E Ink technology, which allowed an iX SUV to change its exterior color from black to white. The i Vision Dee has the next generation of that tech, which allows the outer skin of the vehicle to not only change between up to 32 different colors, but also uses the body of the car as a canvas. The exterior of the i Vision Dee is coated with an ePaper film, which allows a magical display of colors and patterns on the exterior.
The body of the i Vision Dee is divided into 240 segments, each of which is controlled individually – allowing an infinite number of patterns to be generated within seconds. A laser cutting process is used to trim the exterior panels, and the electronic programs were developed by BMW in-house engineers. The exterior treatment enables a uniquely expressive form of customization.
The exterior of the i Vision Dee hints at the highly digital experience inside. A personalized welcome routine combines graphical elements, light and sound as the driver walks up to the car. The digital “face” of the car, with its LED icons and displays, can actually “communicate” feelings to the outside world, and a digital avatar of the driver can even be projected onto the car’s windows as a welcome.
Dee for Digital Emotional Experience
The “Dee” in the name i Vision Dee stands for “digital emotional experience” and the concept car’s aim show how BMW plans to use technology to build a stronger bond between people and their cars. The company says that future digital functions will go way beyond the voice control and driver assistance systems that we’re currently used to. While the cars we buy in the near future are unlikely to have exteriors whose skin can change color and automatically generate moving art, you can expect to see the i Vision Dee’s high-tech heads-up display and its mixed-reality slider on BMW production cars in the near future.