Considering the reputation of crowdfunding and also the state of the EV startup scene, which hasn’t delivered in a while, it’s pleasantly surprising to see some actual progress with a new electric car concept.
After a successful crowdfunding effort, German startup Sono Motors has unveiled the Sion, a battery-electric car partly powered by solar power with onboard solar cells, earlier this year. Now we get a first look at their working prototypes for the ambitious project.
The idea behind Sono’s Sion is a small all-electric city car that is primarily powered by a rechargeable battery pack, but it can also add some range with solar power.
Sono says that the vehicle is equipped with a 35 kWh battery pack which enables ~155 miles (250 km) range on a single charge.
Then the startup claims that the 330 integrated solar cells on the vehicle can add another ~18 miles (30 km) of range under good conditions.
They already have working prototypes of the vehicle and they have been showcasing them to potential buyers at test drive events across Europe for the past few weeks. Friend of the site Milan Pavlovic took a test drive in one in Vienna last weekend and sent us a few pictures of the vehicles:
The problem with integrating solar cells on cars is that they are not guaranteed to be in an optimized position to capture sunlight, which is generally what you want for solar cells.
A car can be in a garage, parked in the shade of a building, or simply not well-positioned to be in sunlight during the most day-time hours as possible. It’s why it’s generally better to place solar cells in solar panels on a roof or in a field.
Nonetheless, the idea of an electric car capable of producing its own electricity is somewhat appealing and if it can be properly integrated without an excessive premium or downside, why not?
That seems like what Sono Motors is going for with the Sion. The vehicle would start at €16,000 (~$18,000 USD) with a monthly fee for the battery pack, not unlike Renault’s Zoe battery leasing program, or €20,000 (~$23,500 USD) with the battery pack.
That’s quite inexpensive even before accounting for gas savings or government incentives where it applies. Though we are talking about a small urban vehicle here.
If there’s a downside it’s definitely the design, which is especially evident with the white prototype. Sono had previously only released pictures of a black vehicle, which made it easier to conceal the solar cells. Now that we see the vehicle in white, it looks quite unfinished or poorly integrated.
The black prototype is way more aesthetically pleasing and looks like a good effort for a European city car.
Interestingly, the startup has 2 Tesla Model X all-electric SUVs, which they apparently use to tow the prototypes on trailers from event to event:
Sono Motors has almost finished its tour with the Sion prototypes, but it still has a stop in Zürich, where they are gong to be later this week.
They claim to have accumulated over 2,000 reservations with deposits for the vehicle. They are now targeting a start production as soon as in 2019.