Ford May Be Developing Illuminated Body Panels

When it comes to auto design, I’m the equivalent of a creepy guy you might meet on Craigslist: I’m open to anything. For me, being boring is the most unforgivable thing a car can do, and that keeps me pretty open-minded when it comes to radical design ideas. So I’m very interested in this patent application from Ford that uses the word ‘photoluminescent.’

Illustration for article titled Ford May Be Developing Illuminated Body Panels

The patent application was noticed by user Professor G on the FocusRS Club forum, who posted a link to the patent application. The patent application was filed on June 25th, and is titled Luminescent Vehicle Molding. It’s even illustrated with a nice new Mustang convertible.

What the patent describes is a very clever system for creating large areas of body panel illumination with a minimum of electronics or energy usage. The way the patent describes achieving this is via photoluminenscent coatings — materials similar to the glow-in-the-dark stuff that we all grew up with.

Here’s how the patent application’s abstract describes it:

A molding of a vehicle is provided herein. The molding includes a cover panel portion mounted to a body panel of the vehicle. A carrier is disposed between the cover panel portion and the body panel, the carrier having an exposed portion configured to luminesce in response to light excitation. At least one light source is disposed inside the carrier and is configured to emit light for exciting the exposed portion.

Okay, so in less patent-jargony talk, it looks like the plan is to have some moldings on the edges of body panels that hide a series of LEDs, likely in a linear series following the line of the molding. These LEDs are hidden from normal view by some part of the molding, but shine their light on, basically, some sort of glow-in-the-dark coating that “cascades” the energy/light from the LEDs across a large area of the body panel.

The interesting thing about this method is that it could be easily fitted to any existing body panels at pretty much any time — during the manufacturing process, or even for already-produced cars, I think. The molding would be applied to the edges of the body panel, wired up for 12V (I’m assuming), and the photoluminescent coating would be added to the panels, perhaps as an adhesive film? Maybe sprayed on like paint?


I should also add that I totally predicted this, but in the context of squid.

I’m very curious to see how this would actually look on a car at night — I suspect the result could be quite dramatic. I think the choice of the Mustang as the example car here is a good one, as the modern Mustang is no stranger to fun lighting ideas: sequential turn signals, hood-mounted indicator tell-tales, those horse-shaped puddle lights — the Mustang already knows how to have fun with lighting.


I’m all for something like this happening — I’m sure there’s DOT rules to be met so there’s no confusion with the required lights on a car (I’m guessing these couldn’t be close to head or taillights, and probably can’t be red or amber) but for the sides of a car, these could prove to be an engaging new tool for designers.


Could this get over-the-top and silly? Of course. But why be afraid of it? How dignified do we need to be all the time, with our innumerable white and grey cars. Life’s too short. Have some fun. Let us light up our cars.

(Thanks, Taylor V!)

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