stay off the grid longer
Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial teamâ€™s mission. Learn more here.
The clever folks over at Ford patent a lot of ideas. Some are cool and potentially revolutionary; others are just downright weird. But a new Ford patent application for inflatable solar panels that unforld from a vehicleâ€™s roof could be a game-changer for passenger EVs â€” especially anyone using their electric SUV or truck for overlanding.
The patent shows an inflatable, retractable solar-powered cover deploying around a parked vehicle. Itâ€™s no secret that automakers want to use solar power; after all, itâ€™s free energy, either to run the accessories on a gas-powered car or to feed juice into the battery of an EV. But finding enough surface area for solar panels to generate a useful amount of power is a challenge. (The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, for instance, uses a solar-powered roofâ€¦but that roof can only produce about two miles of EV range per day at best.) Fordâ€™s idea for deploying solar panels in a shield around the car, however, would increase the surface area available for panels â€” and, consequently, the amount of electricity solar tech could generate for the vehicle.
Such technology would have numerous applications. Commuters could charge their cars in parking lots while theyâ€™re in the office, or at a football game. It would make EVs more sensible for city-dwellers who donâ€™t have regular home plug access.
Fordâ€™s idea could also be a crucial technology for electric vehicle overlanding. Range anxiety will be particularly acute when youâ€™re in the wilderness in an electric vehicle, and itâ€™s sure to be always on your mind when youâ€™re using the EV battery as an auxiliary power source for camping and cooking. A smooth and potent solar charging apparatus like this one could offer extra range and peace of mind.
Donâ€™t get too excited, though, as weâ€™re likely a long way off from a technological and cost perspective for it being practical and helpful for vehicles to have their own solar panel arrays. Still, Fordâ€™s patent reminds us that automakers are never short of interesting ideas to potentially improve the lives of tomorrowâ€™s drivers.