German solar technology startup Sono Motors has officially thrown in the towel on its Sion solar passenger EV program following an inspiring but unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign called #SaveSion. The pivot puts the company’s entire focus on its Sono Solar tech business, which has previously found success with third party customers around the world. While Sono should be alright, its abandonment of solar EV development is yet another chapter in a sad tale about how hard it is to scale the technology without billions in funding.
Over the past six years, Sono Motors ($SEV) has not only built a production-intent mass-market solar EV but also a community of fans and interested customers across Europe. We at Electrek have been following the progress of the Sion solar EV since it was a mere rendering in 2017, onto its first prototype iteration, second, and a final production-intent design I personally got to see up close in Munich last summer.
Over the past couple years especially, Sono Group has publicly shared progress of the other half of its business, integration of its solar tech on other vehicles like MAN Vans or a refrigerated semi-trailer with CHEREAU.
In December, hours after posting its Q3 2022 results that outlined a growing B2B solar integration business, Sono CEOs and cofounders Jona Christians and Laurin Hahn offered a public statement relaying serious financial struggles its Sion solar EV program was enduring.
At the time, abandoning the solar EV program in favor of its revenue-generating B2B solar technology division, but after all its hard work, the Sono team announced one last Hail Mary attempt to fund the Sion’s 12-month journey to production.
Sono launched a 50-day campaign called #SaveSion, calling its community of reservation holders to action by committing to a solar EV purchase in order to fund roughly 100 million euros the company expected would be required for its final steps of development and production.
By January 26, 2023, Sono announced over 8,600 community members and additional sources had committed to 47 million euros, and that it was extending the campaign for an additional month while it hoped for a miracle… or at the very least, an angel investor or two.
With the #SaveSion scheduled to end in four days, Sono has accepted the cruel startup reality that it won’t get the necessary funding in time, the Sion program will be terminated, and Sono Motors will now be known as a B2B solar integration company and a defeating reminder of what could have been in the shrinking world of solar EVs.
Sono will continue solar tech at the cost of 300 staff
Sono Group announced the official termination of the Sion solar EV program today in favor of its solar solutions business focused upon hardware, power electronics, and software. Sono states its B2B solar technology has already been implemented across the products of 23 different customers around the world including Europe, Asia, and the US.
Top comment by ADubya
I'm sorry for the people who will become unemployed as a result of this. This porgram's demise is also a statement on how eocnomically marginal solar cell charging on a car is, compared to the energy requirements of driving.
The company expressed that although it is difficult to abandoned the project that was its original nucleus, its B2B solar business has proven fruitful and is much more capital-light than developing and scaling tens of thousands of solar EVs. In fact, Sono states that 90% of its funding needs for 2023 were to be allocated to the Sion program. Sono cofounder and CEO Laurin Hahn spoke:
This pivot marks a significant step in Sono Motors’ business development. Even though we had to terminate our original passion project, the Sion program, shifting our entire focus to business-to-business solar solutions provides us with an opportunity to continue to create innovative products in the solar space. It was a difficult decision and despite more than 45,000 reservations and pre-orders for the Sion, we were compelled to react to the ongoing financial market instability and streamline our business.
While Sono’s growing number of B2B customers provides evidence of the viability of its solar technology, recent validation from the EU only hardens its case. The company relayed that it recently secured 1.46 million euros from the EU Commission’s European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (‘CINEA’). Sono says it will use the funding to further development of its proprietary solar technology (‘SEAMLESS-PV’ project).
While Sono should remain afloat following its official solar business pivot, its “lighter” operations won’t come without their fair share of collateral damage. Without the Sion program, Sono says it is planning to terminate the jobs of about 300 employees. That’s a sad bookend to an attempt at a consumer-friendly passenger solar EV that truly could have done some good in the world.
With Sion officially out there is more pressure is on Aptera Motors, who remains the closest (yet still quite far) to reaching solar EV production, although Lightyear appears to be back for one last Hail Mary of its own.
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