The cover should be able to retract/deploy automatically, too.
Now that more and more electrified vehicles are reaching the market with a range between charges that make them nearly as practical as a gas-powered vehicle, automakers are turning to new ways to take the hassle out of charging without needing to plug into a physical power point. Hyundai's Solar Roof for its new Sonata Hybrid is one such example, but it only adds two miles of range per day, which would be pretty pointless for an EV.
Ford seems to have developed something much more useful, though: a 'Solar Cocoon' which is essentially a car cover with solar cells. The patent was shared by a user on Mach-E Club and, unsurprisingly, the upcoming Mustang Mach-E was suggested as a beneficiary of the technology.
The car cover's solar cells are flexibly arranged so that it can be used like any other cover, but it can also gather energy to juice up the EV's batteries. The original filing from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) describes "a solar cell arrangement for an electrically drivable motor vehicle, having at least one flexible structure, [and] at least one inflatable chamber."
It also details being able to go from a "slack stowage state into a tensioned function state". The document further elaborates on electrical retraction of the flexible structure. Hopefully, this means that the solar cover can be easily deployed and then stowed. After all, if it ends up being a fussy process that's more annoying than simply plugging in an EV, it may not find favor with customers. That said, the advantages are obvious: you can charge your EV anywhere, regardless of whether there is a power supply or not.
The number of solar cells that would be used isn't explained, so it's uncertain what the charging potential of this 'Solar Cocoon' would be. Ideally, it would charge up the EV enough to render plugging in unnecessary, but the more likely scenario is that the cover will supplement - not replace - regular charging. Whatever the case, we hope that Ford can make the tech work because it could be another game-changer for EVs.