Toyota developing color-changing paint

By 3 Min Read

Toyota has filed a patent application for color-changing paint, a technology that could let owners or dealerships quickly change the colors of cars.

As Toyota notes in the application—which was published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on March, 19, but originally filed in 2022—owners may want to change paint colors to keep up with trends or just to switch things up. Dealers could also change colors to make cars easier to sell, Toyota suggests.

But instead of a complex repaint or vinyl wrap, Toyota claims to have developed paint that can alter its hues in reaction to heat and light. As described in the application, a car would be driven into a garage bay with tunnel-like heating elements that would surround it on all sides. As the paint surface is heated, a light-emitting “color modulator” device would be passed over the paint surface to complete the transformation.

The color modulator, which could be controlled by a human operator or a robot, Toyota suggests, would essentially serve as the controller for this process. It could communicate with a remote server as well as temperature sensors embedded in the vehicle’s bodywork to determine the correct settings for a specific color, according to the application.

Toyota color-changing paint patent image

Toyota admits that it isn’t the first automaker to experiment with color-changing paint. As noted by the automaker in the application, BMW demonstrated something similar at CES 2022 on its iX electric SUV.

Based on the electrophoretic technology used in e-readers, the color-change effect used by BMW was created by millions of microcapsules suspended in an exterior wrap. An electric current caused pigments to circulate within these microcapsules, changing the exterior from white to gray to black at the push of a button.

Toyota’s version seems a bit different, as it doesn’t use an exterior wrap as a medium. Whether that makes it more likely to reach production than the BMW design (which was for demonstration purposes only) remains to be seen.

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