The development of an electric car today is no surprise. The industry has long ceased to be a lot of start-ups and has been firmly mastered by the world’s largest automakers, who periodically announce plans to completely abandon cars with an internal combustion engine in ten to fifteen years. However, there is still room for creativity here. German startup Sono Motors plans to start selling an electric car powered by solar panels next year. How is the company going to implement this technology?
Two Prototypes and Optimistic Plans
The engineers who later founded Sono Motors began developing the prototype back in 2012. Four years later, a beautiful infographic was ready — by showing it, the founders of the company Lorin Hahn, Naveena Pernsteiner and Jonah Christansen attracted about two million euros of investments through several crowdfunding campaigns. This money was enough to develop two working prototypes, which were assembled by the manufacturer Roding Automobile according to the specifications of Sono Motors. It took another year — and in July 2017 they were presented to the public.
The cars were sent on a small tour of European countries so that everyone could look at the technology and even take a small test drive. In the wake of the success of the development, Sono Motors made rather optimistic plans, already in 2019, expecting to start serial assembly of its cars. To do this, the manufacturer found a plant in Trollhättan, Sweden, which previously produced components for Saab. According to calculations, 260,000 cars were to leave the gates of the enterprise in eight years. At the same time, the company stated that in May 2019 it already had 10,000 pre-orders from all over Europe.
However, in practice, everything turned out to be not so smooth — Sono Motors showed the model ready for the series only in March 2019. On December 1, the company admitted that it was short of cash and unable to raise new funding. The founders found themselves in a difficult position: potential investors offered their funds in exchange for patents owned by Sono Motors and their vision for the further development of the project. To save the company and continue to develop it within their own vision, top management resorted to proven crowdfunding — and it worked out. A drama worthy of Silicon Valley series was resolved by January, raising more than 50 million euros.
Then things got better (but not in terms of the production of electric vehicles, which never began): in 2021, Sono Motors became a public company on the NASDAQ exchange. Funds raised through the placement enabled the signing of an agreement with a new manufacturer, the Finnish Valmet Automotive. A new start of production is scheduled for 2023.
Sion is a passenger car, the main development of Sono Motors, although the technology for installing solar panels suggests their use on trucks or buses (we wrote that the company agreed with a carrier from Munich, and as soon as permits are received, cars with trailers, on the roofs of which 20 solar panels are placed, will go on routes).
So, the main feature of Sion is highly efficient monocrystalline silicon solar cells protected by a layer of polycarbonate, which cover almost the entire car. The total area of 330 photocells is 7.5 square meters (80 square feets), and their average efficiency is 21%. Alas, although the panels are highly efficient, the range they can provide is not impressive. On a sunny day, using only solar energy, you can travel no more than 34 kilometers (21 miles), and the average range is only ten.
However, for charging a lithium-ion battery, there is also a completely familiar plug. The manufacturer promises that on a single charge it will be possible to drive a maximum of about 250 kilometers (155 miles), the maximum range is 320. Charging itself from a household network will take 13 hours. If you use a standard Type 2 station, then up to 80 percent can be charged in 2.5 hours, and up to a hundred in a little more than three. There is also the possibility of fast charging in half an hour to 80% and in an hour — up to a hundred.
The prototypes were equipped with a lithium-manganese battery, but in 2021 the manufacturer replaced them with more advanced lithium-iron-phosphate ones. The latter should provide a long-life cycle and a long driving range, plus they do not contain cobalt, which is harmful to the environment and the children who mine it in the Congo.
The 120-kilowatt Sion engine will allow you to accelerate to 140 km/h (87 miles/hour). Five passengers will fit inside — they will be provided with all the standard features that are in any car. The development of BreSono deserves a few words — an air filtration system that uses natural moss. According to the developer, moss filters up to 20% of airborne particles and regulates humidity. It does not need to be watered or fertilized — it is enough to replace it, like any other car filter.
For pre-order Sion will need to pay 29,900 euros, making a deposit of 500 euros.