Electric car sion : solar energy instead of horsepower

Sono motors, one of the most unusual competitors of classic car manufacturers, relies on solar power, battery electricity – and moss. A first test drive.

Rolling solar collector. The electric Sion from Sono Motors is scheduled for market launch in early 2023 and will use built-in solar cells to produce its own electricity for extra kilometers. Photo: Stefan Schutz/Sono Motors GmbH/dpa-tmn

the clouds in berlin’s sky can do little to harm the sion. The solar modules embedded in the body of the black electric car soak up the remaining solar energy. The power of the integrated photovoltaic system can be read immediately on the display of the on-board computer. A rolling solar collector that charges the battery: the car from manufacturer sono motors can travel up to 35 kilometers on pure solar energy – without a charging station and, of course, without gasoline.

One of the most unusual competitors of the classic car manufacturers presented its second electric prototype in the capital on Wednesday, which is said to be already close to the future series vehicle. Sono founder and CEO laurin hahn talks about an SEV, a solar electrive vehicle.

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The sion is not yet available for purchase. Production will not start until 2023. And anyone tracing the history of the company, which was founded in 2016, can be quite uncertain whether the start-up entrepreneurs will keep to their schedule this time around. In the meantime, the founders ran out of money – and then corona came along.

In the midst of the pandemic, sono motors 2020 has painstakingly secured its latest round of funding, with one of europe’s largest crowdfunding campaigns, as they proudly note. the munich-based company has raised 100 million euros from small and large investors to date. And good 13.000 interested parties have paid an average of 3000 euros to reserve a car. Together, this adds up to a sum that is a joke compared to the development budgets of major car manufacturers. But sono motors is serious and the tinkerers are anything but conventional carmakers.

The car should be on the market as early as 2019

"we are now solidly financed," says laurin hahn in an interview with tagesspiegel background. The 26-year-old does not confirm reports of possible stock market plans. But it’s clear that more capital will have to be raised once production gets underway. sono motors is not afraid of competition from established manufacturers, despite the turbulence in the past. The car should be on the market as early as 2019. "the sion will still be competitive in 2023," believes hahn. The market is big enough for a niche player, it says. "there’s enough cake for everyone."

on wednesday sono motors brought news to berlin. Future customers are offered more battery power at the same price. The sion will now get a 54 kilowatt hour (kwh) lithium iron phosphate battery. The battery is free of cobalt, manganese and nickel. So far, the sion was to be equipped with a 35 kwh-hour battery pack. At a purchase price of 25.500 euros nothing will change. The new, bidirectionally chargeable battery allows a range of up to 305 kilometers (WLTP) and a maximum charging power of 75 kwh. The power of the solar cells provides a further range of up to 35 kilometers. In practice, things are likely to be more modest.

Production in trollhattan, sweden, is handled by the Chinese-Swedish contract manufacturer nevs, a successor company to saab. Sono motors is buying just under half of the car from established component suppliers. The engine comes from vitesco, a continental subsidiary, the electronics from bosch, and the battery from elring-klinger. This will save time, money and effort, says technical director markus volmer, who used to work for Daimler. "the development work is not quite finished, but we are preparing for producibility now."there are already initial indications that the sion, with its own solar system in the plastic body, will also be given the green light by the federal motor transport authority.

Production target: 257.000 vehicles

Sono motors wants to sell 43.000 sion per year, 257.000 throughout the vehicle’s life cycle. a new model should then be ready by the end of the decade. That is a hopeful. At present, the team, which has grown rapidly from 150 to 230 employees, is trying to launch a car that breaks almost all the rules of the market.

So the family-friendly sion is only available in black and without individual configurations. The designers only afforded one extravagance in the interior: real Iceland moss is embedded in the dashboard as a bright green, natural ventilation filter. After two years, laurin hahn recommends, the moss should be replaced – just like the filter in a normal air conditioning system.

Online-only sales are expected to save 15 percent in costs, and sono motors also wants to earn money later on by selling CO2 certificates to other manufacturers – just like its big competitor tesla. The car can be repaired by the users themselves (tutorials make it possible) and in a large, as yet unnamed chain of repair shops.

The young carmakers are breaking new ground as mobility providers. With the smartphone, customers can offer other people the car, electricity or a ride (in carsharing or ridepooling). The community, which laurin hahn raves about, is committed to the development work, is actively involved with its own ideas, and has even been given a seat on the company’s advisory board. A lot of information about the development process that other carmakers keep strictly confidential is available on the website. Car production is grassroots.

"we are unbeatable," says hahn on wednesday. Big sounds for a small car. In any case, they show that hahn and his co-founder jona christians have not lost their self-confidence after the financial rollercoaster ride.

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Christina Cherry
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