A tonneau cover is usually a simple device that gives items in a pickup bed a bit of protection against the elements and prying eyes. But Ford may be working on something a bit more elaborate.
A recent patent filing from the automaker details a tonneau cover comprised of movable panels that can be reconfigured in multiple ways to deflect air and reduce aerodynamic drag.
The patent application, which was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in early 2022 and published on Nov. 30, describes a tonneau cover comprised of three roughly triangular panels.
Hinges and actuators allow the panels to move, going from flat to an angled shape not unlike the profile of a Tesla Cybertruck bed, among other configurations. Ford also mentions a rear-fairing configuration specifically for deflecting air away from the rear of the vehicle.
Ford reconfigurable tonneau cover patent image
The panels could be made out of hard materials like polymer, fiberglass, aluminum, or composites, or from vinyl or canvas supported by a frame, Ford suggests in the application. Their movement could be coordinated by a central controller linked to vehicle sensors which could, for example, raise some of the panels to deflect air out of the bed when the vehicle reaches a certain speed.
EVs have revived automakers’ obsession with aerodynamics because less drag can mean more range. And Ford does have a new electric pickup in development. Codenamed T3, it’s scheduled to debut in 2025 as Ford’s first pickup designed from the start as an EV.
Many ideas patented by automakers never make it to production, but the T3 is at least a plausible use case for this reconfigurable tonneau cover.