Tesla’s plans to offer a solar integrated option for the Cybertruck electric ute are firming up, with the application for a patent for an “integrated tonneau cover for a vehicle” to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
Tesla’s vision for the futuristic, angular tank-style vehicle have almost always vaguely included the option boost its range with integrated solar PV, with the company’s CEO and co-founder Elon Musk as recently as February telling a podcast that you could “possibly… put solar solar cells” in the cover of the truck bed.
But a May patent application shared by Electrek has revealed those podcast musings to be much more than that, with detailed plans for a truck bed cover that can be electrically rolled up and down.
The patent application notes that, “in one embodiment,” the cover comprises solar electric cells that are connected to a photovoltaic charging system and battery. And “in one embodiment, the battery is the vehicle battery that powers the vehicle, that in one embodiment may be an electric truck.”
“When tonneau cover 110 is deployed to cover the bed 104 and the cells that make up the slats are facing the sun, the battery within the electric vehicle can be charged by the solar electric cells,” the application says.
The application explains that the truck bed – or tonneau – cover would be configured to move through an opening formed between the Cybertruck’s cab and truck bed, and could be opened and closed using a motor and a set of channels.
A drawing (below) shows that the cover, once retracted, would be stored neatly rolled up down below the ute’s rear seats, so as not to obscure the view through the rear window or compromise the space in the ute bed.
Whether the more than 1 million customers that have reportedly paid $US100 to reserve a Cybertruck will take to the solar option remains to be seen – and will no doubt depend on the added cost weighed against the added benefits.
As Musk himself noted in the same February podcast, given the size of the proposed solar tonneau cover, the efficiency of the panels and the access to the sun, “what are you really going to get…. if you could do 10 miles a day [of extra range from the sun] you’d be lucky.”