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BMW i5 Flow Nostokana: A Car Wrapped in E-Paper

The new BMW i5 Flow Nostokana is a digitalised reincarnation of the Esther Mahlangu Art Car from 1991 – thanks to technology from E Ink with moving colours.

With the BMW i5 Flow Nostokana, BMW has created a tribute to the Esther Mahlangu Art Car from 1991, brought to life with modern technology from E Ink – the same technology behind the e-paper signage solutions from PPDS and Sharp/NEC, among others, but in a unique form.

The BMW i5 Flow Nostokana has been equipped with a total of 1,349 e-paper segments, which can be individually controlled and enable a wide variety of colours and pattern designs, while respecting the original design. The animatable foil segments extend in two strips each over the roof, bonnet, and rear as well as over the sides of the vehicle.


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“Working with a company like BMW Group on the Hommage Car demonstrates how our technology can transform the way surfaces are experienced by enabling product personalisation and self-expression,” explains Johnson Lee, CEO of E Ink. “E Ink Prism 3 is fully programmable, low-power and long-lasting, making it ideal for creating dynamic and sustainable designs on any surface.”

Inspired by Art

Esther Mahlangu, the first African artist and woman to create an art car, crafted the Esther Mahlangu Art Car in 1992, also known as BMW Art Car #12, from a BMW 525i. At 88 years old, she also worked on this new car, expressing fascination with how modern technology expands her art to new audiences. Stella Clarke, a Research Engineer Open Innovations at the BMW Group, took inspiration from Mahlangu’s art years ago. She played a leading role in the creation of the e-foil concept, initially just an idea, now realized through collaboration with Mahlangu. Clarke describes working with Mahlangu as an overwhelming experience.

The car was presented for the first time at the Frieze Los Angeles art fair from 29 February to 2 March. For more than two years, BMW and E Ink have been working together to explore the possibilities of colour-changing automotives. The BMW iX Flow with E Ink, which was unveiled at CES 2022, could switch from black to white at the touch of a button. The black and white concept became the first multi-coloured automotive implementation of E Ink’s Prism 3 technology in 2023 with the BMW i Vision Dee. The 240 segments of the BMW i Vision Dee displayed up to 32 different colours.

Cut by Laser

E Ink and BMW collaborated to develop the laser cutting process for the Nostokana car’s film and electronic control design. In-house, BMW Group developed adaptations for curved surfaces and programmed animations. BMW highlights the growing robustness of the film segments used in e-paper cars, potentially facilitating series production. However, the BMW i5 Flow Nostokana will stay a one-off initially. For larger roll-outs, standard e-paper formats will be utilized.