Something is stirring in the electric car market. While the established auto industry, especially in Germany, is clearly struggling to develop and sell EVs with acceptable ranges and reasonable prices, small, flexible companies are showing them how to do it.
One example is Sono Motors. The upstart company, founded in January 2016 by Laurin Hahn, Navina Pernsteiner and Jona Christians, is based in the north of Munich, close to BMW.
The ideas and talent behind Sono led to a spectacular crowd-funding campaign, with the three founders managing to collect one million Euros in just a few days. This investment was used to finance the construction of two prototypes of its first model, the Sono Sion.
An electric and solar car in one go
The Sion, a five-seated, mid-sized car that’s suitable for everyday use, is a combination of an electric and a solar car. It gets part of the energy it needs from the environment via solar cells that are integrated into the body. They generate electricity solely from solar energy and feed it into the battery. This increases the range by up to 30 kilometers per day.
The Sion, which is particularly suitable for families and commuters, is characterized by a rather inconspicuous design that’s reminiscent of the Audi A2, which was built from 1999 to 2005. It has a rear axle drive, accommodates room for five people and has a trunk volume of an impressive 650 liters. By comparison a VW Golf has 380 liters of luggage space. If you fold the backrests of the rear seats of the Sion, a loading volume of 1,250 liters is available.
What’s striking – at least in the prototypes – are the 330 solar modules which are mounted on both sides of the Sion, on the hood and roof and at the rear. To protect these solar cells from the environment or damage, they are coated with a layer of polycarbonate.
The interior is also rather simple. Only the infotainment system, with a ten-inch screen, catches the eye. The instruments in the cockpit simply show the speed and the charge level of the battery.
The Sion allows a range of 250 kilometers under normal conditions. It will cost around 16,000 Euros – without battery. That should be available for a fixed monthly fee and it should be possible for under 4,000 Euros.
5,000 reservations from 30 countries
After a development phase unusually short for the automotive industry, a team of engineers, designers, technicians and industry experts is now working hard to keep its promise to deliver the first production vehicles to customers by the fall of 2019. Although the development is not yet completed, there are already more than 5,000 reservations from over 30 countries. Just over 80 percent come from the core markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
For each of these pre-ordered vehicles the customers have made a down payment – a Sono Motors spokesman emphasises with pride.
As environmentalists, the Sion’s engineers set a high value on safety and longevity. They have set themselves the goal that the repair of the car is easy and cost-efficient and thus makes another contribution to sustainability.
“The test drive tours were a valuable opportunity for us to gather ideas and feedback from our supporters, so we can further develop the Sion making best use of the feedback from our community,” says Navina Pernsteiner, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Sono Motors.
According to media reports, Sono is now planning on producing a total of 200,000 units.
A car as a mobile power storage system
Another highlight is the biSono. This allows the driver of a Sion to draw power from the battery of the vehicle and make it available to other users. Therefore the Sion acts like a mobile power storage system.
“We have come significantly closer to our vision of actively developing solutions to make us less dependent from petroleum by using electro mobility,” says Laurin Hahn, Co-Founder and CEO of Sono Motors. “We want to make electro mobility accessible for everybody and allow the owners of the Sion to generate energy themselves.”
“Sion stands for a completely new mobility concept,” adds his colleague Jona Christians. “The combination of an electric and solar vehicle is unique in this way and it was also our clear goal to make the Sion particularly efficient and sustainable by using complementary mobility systems.”
It seems the story of Sono Motors has only just begun.