Ford has filed a patent application for what appears to be a bed-mounted gasoline range extender for electric pickup trucks. While an electric Ford F-150 is scheduled to go on sale in mid-2022, it's unclear if it will get this feature.

First spotted by The Drive, the application is for "electrified vehicles with removable and interchangeable range-extending generators." It was submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in April 2018, and published on September 15.

Drawings accompanying the patent applications show a box-shaped generator unit—containing a small engine, fuel tank, control electronics and exhaust system—that would go in the bed of a pickup truck. The generator would plug into the truck using connectors similar to those used for charging stations.

Automakers often file patent applications to protect ideas they have no intention of using in the near term, and that may be the case here.

Ford bed-mounted gasoline range extender patent image

Ford bed-mounted gasoline range extender patent image

"We submit patents on new inventions as a normal course of business but they aren’t necessarily an indication of new business or product plans," Ford spokesman Mike Levine told Motor Authority.

Gasoline range extenders are nothing new—the BMW i3 REx uses a 2-cylinder gasoline engine to boost its range—but in the past they have always been an integral part of a vehicle's powertrain. This would likely be the first example of a gasoline range extender as an add-on feature.

Ford has claimed the electric F-150 will have capability to match internal-combustion trucks. Last year, it showed a prototype towing 10 loaded rail cars, weighing a combined one million pounds. But towing requires a lot of extra energy, and electric vehicles simply don't have the reserve capacity that gasoline or diesel trucks do. That means drivers who tow with an EV will see a significant drop in range, which could be the reason behind Ford's in-bed range extender.

Reverting back to fossil fuels may not be the only solution, though. Rivian has also claimed robust towing capacity for its upcoming R1T electric pickup, but the company is expected to take a different approach to preserving range. The company has patented removable auxiliary battery packs that would sit in the bed of a truck—just like Ford's gasoline generator.