Automotive giant Ford files patent for inflatable solar panels

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With Tesla becoming the staple of electric motor vehicles, the race for the next big innovation is always on. The US-based automotive titan Ford has filed a patent for an inflatable solar panel, which unfurls from the roof of an electric vehicle, covering the entire vehicle.  

The patent, filed back in November last year, was published last Thursday on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website. The patent describes the concept as a flexible shield that unfolds via an inflation pump and is powered by stored solar energy.   

The cover is comprised of flexible thin-lay solar cells that, once deployed, maintain their shape using memory polymer. To activate it, the driver simply flips a switch that determines whether the solar panel cocoon goes into “an extended or stowed state.”  

In 2014, Ford released the original C-Max Solar Energi Concept at CES, an annual showcase of consumer technologies. This concept involved a Ford plug-in hybrid car that utilised a roof-mounted solar panel to produce a reported 8 kilowatts of power, which helped to charge the plug-in hybrid’s battery. It was the first of its kind and worked by drawing power from a unique solar concentrator lens similar to a magnifying glass.  

Gear Patrol shares the sentiment that the inflatable solar panel technology would have numerous applications. Commuters would be able to charge their cars in parking lots while they’re in the office, or at a football game, or even in the wilderness while on camping trips.  

The solar panels would make driving for a long range in electric vehicles possible, without the need of regular charging via plug-in stations, as drivers would simply park, flip a switch and charge while resting.  

Automotive companies have long since tried to harness solar power to run their vehicles for many years. Now with the introduction of Ford’s patent, and with competitors such as Tesla and Hyundai continuing to advance their Electric Vehicle tech, the idea of having vehicles run on renewable energy seems more and more plausible. 

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