The idea of using solar panels to give electric cars a little extra boost is nothing new. In fact, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has a solar roof that helps to run its electronics, and can give it a couple of extra miles of driving range each day.
Solar panels aren’t efficient enough at this point to fully charge up an electric car, but the more surface area a solar panel takes up, the more energy it can capture. If you could have a car completely covered with solar panels, it might produce a few more miles a day worth of power, if not more.
Recently, Ford Global Technologies filed a patent application for a unique kind of solar charging panel that basically blankets a car when parked.
The patent application (US 2020/0153383 A1), first reported on by the MachEClub, envisions a roof-mounted carrier that can release a retractable car cover with an embedded solar array. The tarp, made from a shape-memory polymer, would protect the car from the elements, while harnessing energy from the sun.
Since the flexible solar tarp would dramatically increase the surface area compared to a simple roof panel, it could capture much more solar power. The patent application also describes a variant of the invention which could automatically retract when it receives a signal that the driver is ready to retrieve their car from its parking space. It’s kind of a nifty idea, assuming the solar cover could hold up to being opened and closed all the time.