Sono Motors unveils production design of its Sion solar EV

Elva Mankin

During its inaugural “Celebrate the Sun” community event held in Munich today, Sono Motors debuted the production design of its upcoming Sion solar EV. Not to be outdone, Sono Motors followed up with an additional world premiere, unveiling its new “Solar Bus Kit” that can be retrofitted on existing city […]

During its inaugural “Celebrate the Sun” community event held in Munich today, Sono Motors debuted the production design of its upcoming Sion solar EV. Not to be outdone, Sono Motors followed up with an additional world premiere, unveiling its new “Solar Bus Kit” that can be retrofitted on existing city buses to help reduce carbon emissions.

Sono Motors is a German automotive startup founded in 2016 that focuses specifically on solar electric vehicles and solar cell technology. Through an integration of proprietary solar panels into the exterior of its flagship Sion SEV, it can gather an additional 70 to 150 miles of range per week from the sun alone.

It’s been a long but progressive journey for the Sion, which began as a project out of a garage by cofounders Laurin Hahn and Jona Christians. We at Electrek first covered the Sion in its first iteration when it was still being crowdfunded.

Since then, we’ve since seen a second generation prototype and upgrades to the battery, not to mention several partnerships to integrate Sono’s solar technology into other vehicles, as well as bidirectional charging solutions for the home.

This past spring, Sono shared that its Sion solar EV had entered its series-validation phase, consisting of thirty-seven SEVs, some of which are full builds and some just body-in-white for testing purposes. Out of these series validation vehicles, a production design has emerged.

As Sono Motors celebrates the sun in Germany today, it has officially unveiled its latest upgrades to the Sion solar EV as it moves ever closer to series production.

Sono Motors’ Solar EV reached production design phase

Sono unveiled the revamped solar EV to a crowd of over 2,000 in Munich today, during its inaugural “Celebrate the Sun” event. The weather in the mid-90s (℉) and record highs throughout Europe can serve as a timely and sobering reminder of climate change, echoing the need for sustainable solutions like solar EVs louder than ever.

According to Sono Motors, the final production design of Sion received major enhancements to both its exterior and interior, including fewer lines and clearer surfaces. The exterior includes new headlights (with a new daylight stripe) and rear lights, a new bottom sideline design, new rear camera, and revamped charging lid in the front.

Additionally, you’ll notice new door handles (seen above) donning the words “made to be shared.” There are tiny imprinted messages around the new solar EV in its production design, one of the new elements Sono Motors cofounder and CEO Laurin Hahn was especially excited about when we interviewed him:

I just saw a photo from a studio shoot with Jona for the first time and we thought, ‘Wow, that’s nice! We love that. We love that new design.’ And that’s only the design changes. On the engineering side, there’s quite a lot as well.

It’s wonderful to hear genuine excitement from the cofounders as they watch what was once a solar-powered dream transform into reality. Here are some of those engineering specs:

  • The outer shell of Sono’s solar EV consists of 456 seamlessly integrated solar half-cells
    • Solar energy can extend the estimated range (305 km /190 mi) by an average of 112 km (70 mi) per week, but can go as high as an 245 additional km (152 mi) per week
  • Sion production design has a 54 kWh LFP battery
    • Max charging capacity of up to 11 kW (AC) and 75 kW (DC)
    • Sono states German commuters will be able to charge their Sion up to four times less than EVs of the same class and similar battery size
  • The Sion solar EV can deliver bidirectional charging to power electronic devices, homes or other electric cars at an AC output of up to 11 kW

In our interview, we asked Hahn about the bidirectional charging and its potential for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capabilities in which a Sion owner could realistically gather free energy from the sun, store it in their solar EV, then sell it back to the electrical company during peak hours.

The Sono cofounder and the team said that V2G is certainly the hope one day, but there is so much red tape to get through before then. By delivering this car in the EU, there will be dozens of different markets, each with their own government and regulations to get through before anyone can sell excess energy back to the grid. Even so, the technology is already present in the production design SEV and can hopefully be activated someday via an OTA update.

Next steps

Sono Motors is currently building out its fleet of series-validation solar EVs at Bertradt near its Munich HQ. Testing is already underway and will continue under extreme conditions in the EU and the US. This will include crash tests and refining driving dynamics on public roads, all while optimizing its solar technology. Speaking of which…

Source: Sono Motors

Sono Motors unveils Solar Bus Kit

In addition to debuting the production design version of the Sion solar EV, Sono Motors celebrated the sun with a second world premiere – the Solar Bus Kit. This is a complete retrofit solar solution that can fit most twelve meter public transport buses in Europe to help reduce diesel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Although the Solar Bus Kit can’t make a diesel bus entirely emissions-free (yet), it can partially power systems onboard like HVAC to save fuel and concurrently, emissions. According to Sono, its kit can save up to 1,500 liters of diesel and up to four tons of CO2 per bus, per year. All from solar panels totaling about 8 square meters in size. Fellow Sono cofounder and CEO Jona Christians spoke:

Our solar technology is already contributing to climate protection and reducing CO2 emissions for numerous partners. In Munich, for example, we are collaborating with the city’s public transport company and are thereby supporting the city’s clean air targets. Such partnership projects demonstrate the potential of our technology for the transport sector. We’re proud to celebrate the unveiling of our novel solar product, the ‘Solar Bus Kit,’ which will truly push our mission of making every vehicle a solar vehicle to the next level. The all-new Solar Bus Kit allows us to strengthen our solar business by maximizing the scalability of our technology to a huge market: the public and private bus fleet sector. It also represents a milestone on our path toward a world without fossil fuels.

Sono Motors’ Sono Solar Technology arm continues to expand its customized B2B solutions to a group that now consists of 19 partners around the globe including MAN Truck & Bus and Reefer Group subsidiary, CHEREAU. Sono Motors said it will share more details of the Solar Bus Kit during IAA Transportation in September.

In speaking with the Sono team in our interview, they are very invested in continuing to build out their two pillar business approach, developing and building Solar EVs, but also implementing their solar technology onto other vehicles. From day one, promoting sustainability and zero-emissions has been the goal, and Sono Motors is delivering a one-two punch on both fronts.

As of July 1, Sono Motors was reporting over 19,000 reservations for the Sion solar EV, equating to net sales of €417 million (~$426M) if each and every one of those reservations were to come to fruition. Despite price increases earlier this year, Sono still expects the Sion to have one of the lowest total costs of ownership (TCOs) in the medium-size vehicle segment.

Production remains on track to begin in the second half of 2023 at Valmet’s manufacturing facilities in Finland. As the two companies work together to ramp up Sion production, they are aiming to produce 257,000 SEVs within seven years. Below is the launch video of Sono Motors’ production design Sion solar EV:

Electrek’s Take

Even in the less than two years I’ve been following Sono Motors, it has come a long way. I was in Munich earlier this month and had the opportunity to be one of the first (if not the first?) people outside of the company to see the production design of the Sion up close.

After seeing the first two prototypes inside and out inside the Sono HQ lobby, I can say that this latest iteration is a major upgrade, especially in terms of being production-ready. It looked so much more polished and professional, from the new headlights, to the revamped interior. The solar panels are also getting crazy close to becoming unnoticeable within the exterior panels, especially from afar. That is something the team told me it has been continuously working on to improve.

If you look in the interior images above, you’ll notice a new component across the top of the moss display. The moss itself can now be removed, and Sion owners will be able to customize their little terrarium with whatever they’d like, adding a new layer of customization to the Solar EV. The new component above is made of recycled material (I would still like to see more of that, but Sono is definitely trying to keep costs down for consumers).

That’s something I genuinely admire about the company’s approach to SEVs. When Laurin Hahn gave me the tour around Bertradt, so many of the basic components were manufactured by third parties, and why shouldn’t they be? I love that Sono Motors is trying to revolutionize EVs by adding solar technology, but not trying to reinvent the entire “wheel” so to speak, by building a completely novel vehicle from the ground up.

If sourcing door hinges from somewhere else saves cost and the Sono team more time to work on what it does best, I think its efficient and smart. Solar EVs are nascent tech already, and adoption will take time, so being able to deliver a family-friendly Sion that doesn’t break the bank will be vital.

Sono is aware of that and is doing all it can to keep costs down while still delivering an SEV of the utmost quality. I’m looking forward to my first test drive.

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