US 20050246964 A1
An emergency vehicle shelter including an inflatable bladder configured for nested engagement with a vehicle for covering exterior surfaces thereof (excepting the underside) . Interior of the bladder is a compressed gas supply with valve means for rapid inflation of the bladder upon actuation of exteriorly accessible actuation lanyard or the like.
1. An emergency vehicle shelter for protecting a vehicle against impact damage from hail comprising:
an inflatable bladder member configured for, upon inflation with gas, assuming a configuration for substantial nested engagement with upper and outer surfaces of a vehicle;
a compressed gas supply containing a measure of compressed gas in an interior void thereof, said measure of compressed gas being sufficient, upon release from said compressed gas supply, to substantially, fully inflate said inflatable bladder member;
a valve member attached to said compressed gas supply and in communication with the interior of said compressed gas supply and with the interior of said inflatable bladder member, said valve member having actuation means for, only upon actuation thereof, releasing said compressed gas into the interior of said inflatable bladder member to inflate same, at least a portion of said actuation means extending exterior of said inflatable bladder member.
1. Field of The Invention
The present invention relates to vehicle covers.
2. Background Information and Summary of the Invention
A variety of vehicle covers are available for protecting vehicles from, among other things, hail. There are, of course, the conventional, single ply covers which merely protect a vehicle's paint from acid rain, bird droppings, etc.
Examples of a variety of car covers can be found by reference to U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,699,192; 4,294,483; 4,807,922; 5,050,925, and 5,242,206.
A hail shield described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,401,074 to Timerman, includes several strips of thick foam rubber spaced apart on a cloth cover. The thick foam strips keep the cloth cover spaced from the surface of the car provide a buffer space to absorb the energy of the falling hailstones. This design also may provide reasonable protection, but is not easily collapsed for storage due to the thickness of the foam strips.
Most car cover either are designed to protect only a portion of the vehicle and/or do not lend themselves to quick deployment as is so often necessary if a vehicle is to be protected against a rapidly developing, hail-producing weather situation.
In addition, presently available vehicle covers rely on heavy material to resist damage or on a thick material to resist impact to the car body. The use of heavy materials in constructing a vehicle cover results in a vehicle cover which provides protection, but which is bulky and difficult to install on a vehicle. Therefore, this type of vehicle cover is not suitable for providing the emergency covering of the vehicle body, especially if the vehicle operator is not exceptionally strong. The other alternative, then, is to provide a vehicle cover which has sufficient thickness to withstand the force of impacting foreign objects. This may be accomplished by inserting padding between the outer and inner surfaces of the vehicle cover, or by providing a system of air bladders which, when inflated, will provide sufficient thickness to protect against damage. An example of an inflatable vehicle cover is found in Farris, U.S. Pat. No. 4,294,483. However, Farris is not designed for use in an emergency situation as it is inflatable only through use of an air compressor, which is not commonly found in a vehicle. Another example—Heck's U.S. Pat. No. 5,242,206—seeks to address the deployment problem through the nearly equally inadequate solution of relying air in tires to inflate the cover.
At present, there remains the necessity for an inflatable vehicle cover which may be used in emergency situations, and which is light, fully covering of the vehicle, and fully effective.
In view of the foregoing, it is an object of the present invention is to provide an improved inflatable vehicle cover.
Another object of the present invention is to provide an inflatable vehicle cover which may provide protection from the force of impacting foreign objects, such as hail stones.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide an inflatable vehicle cover which may be quickly and easily installed on a vehicle for use in emergency situations.
The present invention provides an inflatable vehicle cover for protecting the body of a vehicle from damage from the force of impacting foreign objects, such as hail. The cover is configured as an inflatable bladder which, when inflated, substantially defines a negative impression (on one side) of the vehicle to be protected. The cover is ideally constructed of polyester, propylene, acrylics, nylon, or such other light weight material as will render the cover an easily manageable size and weight.
Integrated within the cover of the present invention is a gas cylinder-based inflation system which, upon actuation, rapidly inflates the cover, thereby providing nearly immediate protection and obviating the need for air compressors, or even resort to deflating one's tires, as in the Heck invention.
A system of elastic straps or the like may be used to secure the vehicle cover to the body of the vehicle.
The inflatable vehicle cover of the present invention thus may be used in a variety of emergency situations where immediate protection of the vehicle is required, such as in a severe thunderstorm or hail storm. The present invention thus provides a solution to a long-unsolved problem, that of providing emergency protection for the body of a vehicle.
The inflatable vehicle cover 10 is shown in its preferred embodiment in
The construction of inflatable items which, by way of appropriate panel shapes and appropriate stitching, achieve a desired three dimensional shape upon inflation, is well known and need not here be explained in detail for an enabling disclosure.
An object of the invention is to provide a most user-friendly product, and as such it is preferred that cover 10 be constructed of polyester, propylene, acrylics, nylon, or such other light weight material as will render the cover an easily manageable size and weight. thus yielding a light weight and pliable article for ease of handling. Even if the material chosen is not literally “air-tight” (although such would be preferable for extended use), the short-term, emergency nature of the uses intended for the present invention would still be met, so long as cover 10 would remain adequately inflated for a period of an hour, or so.
Attached to the perimeter of the cover 10 are a plurality of elasticized straps 30 for securing cover 10 to a to-be-protected vehicle. Straps 30 are preferably attached along each side of the cover 10 and are designed to engage the underside of the vehicle, to be secured in place by a hook or other fastening means.
The inflation valve features a lanyard pull 114 which activates the valve so that gas is released to the interior of Cover 10. The gas cannister is sized to provide capacity to fill cover 10. The cannister design also is appropriate for the gas to be used, usually carbon dioxide, a combination of CO2 and nitrogen, or air. A sufficient quantity of CO2 normally requires only about half the volume as for air. When CO2 is used, some nitrogen can be added to extend the temperature range over which the gas will be of sufficient volume. Also, nitrogen is introduced at higher pressures which allows filling the inflatables more rapidly.
Inflation valves are normally fitted with a safety pin used to prevent inadvertent release with the safety pin removed before deployment. In the present invention, such a safety pin may be attached to the deployment lanyard pull 114 to release the contents of cannister 110.
In use, a quick pull on lanyard pull 114 will release gas to inflate cover 10 in less than a minute when CO2 is used, and a fraction of a minute where high pressure air is used. If manual or electric air pumps are used inflation time will be substantially increased—to several minutes.
Although the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments, this description is not meant to be construed in a limited sense. Various modifications of the disclosed embodiments, as well as alternative embodiments of the inventions will become apparent to persons skilled in the art upon reference to the description of the invention. It is, therefore, contemplated that the appended claims will cover such modifications that fall within the scope of the invention.