Sono Motors is a startup based in Munich, Germany. With the Sion, the firm has developed the first mass-produced solar car, which charges its battery through solar power. Sono Motors wants to launch the Sion in 2019. We spoke with Julius Zimmer about this innovative E-car.
Julius, the idea of building cars with solar energy has been around for a long time. Sono Motors has managed to develop (as one of a few manufacturers) a successful production concept. What is your secret to success? And what advantages would customers who buy a car from Sono Motors have?
Actually, this idea has existed for a very long time. Though not to the extent of combining the solar powered drive train with one of a conventional electric car. In developing this concept, we have come away with one simple question: Why aren’t we using the sun’s energy to completely cover (cost and emmission free) our everyday drives to work or to shop. Because these in particular are the routes that are covered by the average driver. This is also one of the benefits for people who decide to buy a Sion: unlimited mobility at an affordable price in the form of an environmentally friendly car suitable for everyday use.
What does the slogan ”Solarcar for everyone“ mean?
The Sion is thought of as an everyday electric car that can generate enough range through its solar cells to cover short distances of up to 30 kilometers completely autonomously. At a price of 16,000 euros, not including the battery, we would like to enable more people than ever before to benefit from electric mobility. Of course, the phrase “for everyone” also refers to the sharing features that we have integrated into the Sion. It will be possible to share the Sion with other people via car or ride sharing apps. Even the electricity in the battery of the Sion can be shared through our bidirectional charging unit. The car is supposed to have the ability to be used by a large number of people as efficiently as possible.
How does one drive your car when the sun is not shining? How long does the battery last, and can I “fuel up” in other cases from different sources?
The Sion has a range of 250 kilometers. For this line, we are aiming for a 35 kilowatt battery that, like a normal electric car, can take a driver from A to B independent of sunlight levels. Aside from the sun, this battery can be charged through three different options: via a quick charging plug (CSS), through a Type 2 plug or by way of a domestic power outlet.
For whom is the Sion especially suited?
The Sion is especially appealing for commuters. On average, a driver in Germany covers about 18 kilometers per day. In the summer, this distance could be covered completely through the energy of the sun. Having seats for five and including its spacious trunk area, the Sion is also, of course, ideal for families. The hitch covers the use of a small trailer or taking along bicycles anytime. So, in this sense there isn’t a primary demographics group. The Sion is the right car for all people who share our vision of fair, climate friendly, and resource-conserving mobility.
At the moment, the sales numbers of electric and hybrid vehicles is climbing world wide. What role does the solar powered car play in this? Where do you find your niche, do you believe?
We don’t see ourselves primarily as a solar-powered car. Of course, solar integration is a crucial distinguishing feature, but the Sion can only display its entire potential as a total package. We would like to re-think the general concept of the automobile. That is why we focus on sharing features combined with the vehicle’s everyday suitability. The Sion is supposed to make people’s lives easier and in the process have a positive effect on the environment. For us, this is not a niche, but one of the most important challenges for the planet’s future.
How has the feedback from the test drivers been so far?
For us, the test drives have always been a very important indicator to see how people react to the Sion. The Sion has been developed in direct collaboration with our supporters. On the test drives throughout Europe, we gathered the feedback from more than 10,000 people and had this fed into the development of this line of vehicles. This includes, among other things, the driving experience or even the all-around visibility. In this way, for example, we are integrating a third window in the rear area of the line vehicles in order to improve the sight lines while backing up. Through surveys among our supporters, we have also determined what color the vehicle should be and what designs are selected for the headlights.
What OEMs or suppliers do you plan to collaborate with?
We have been in concrete talks with a number of suppliers. At present, we can mention the firm, ElringKlinger, which develops and manufactures the entire battery system. In addition, we have commissioned Automotive Solutions Germany (ASG) with the development and production of the lighting systems.
Do you have plans for the American or Chinese markets?
Of course there are various plans and ideas but unfortunately, at this point in time, we cannot say anything more about it.