Sono Motors this week unveiled the final production design of the Sion EV, a solar-powered electric vehicle that has been in the works since the Munich-based startup back in 2016.
It’s been a long and bumpy road for Sono Motors, a journey that has involved a number of crowdfunding campaigns, a near bankruptcy, and a debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange as a publicly traded company.
The solar fruits of that rather tumultuous labor were showcased at the vibrant “Celebrate the Sun” Community event. The solar-powered Sion EV took center stage. However, another product, the Solar Bus Kit, a series of solar panels designed to be retrofitted to 12-metre public buses, suggests the company has more ambitious plans than a single passenger car.
The question, of course, is whether Sono Motors can manufacture and sell the EV on a large scale? And how?
Sono aims to start shipping the Sion to customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the second half of 2023. The company did not advise on how many Sions would be delivered next year. The only statistic it has shared is that it expects to make 43,000 Sions per year with a production capacity of 257,000 over seven years, according to a company spokesperson.
But even the most well-funded EV startups have struggled to get into production lately. Sono has faced a series of challenges since its IPO in November last year, from a stock price plummeting to switching manufacturing partners, and the path forward to manufacturing and supply is likely to remain bumpy given the current uncertainty in the market and supply chain.
Let’s see what this company is up to:
The final production design of the Sion
The Sion is a compact, family-friendly five-door hatchback that retails for €25,126 (~$25,628 on today’s conversion). The outer shell will consist of 456 integrated solar half-cells that will collect power from the sun and enable self-sufficiency on shorter journeys. Of course, the vehicle will still use a traditional charger to refuel, but the steady trickle of solar power should be enough to power most urban commutes, the company says.
The car’s 54 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery has a range of approximately 190 miles. Sono expects the energy generated by the solar cells to extend that energy by an average of 70 miles and up to 152 miles each week. In addition, the Sion is built with bi-directional charging technology, allowing commuters to use the energy stored in the battery (~11 kW) to power homes or other electronic devices.
Other improvements to the exterior and interior of the final design include a sleeker, cleaner-looking car, Sono said.
The exterior features new headlights, including a new daylight strip, taillights, a reversing camera, a sideline design at the bottom and a redesigned charging cover at the front. There are also new door handles, photos of which have the words “made to be shared” — a nod to Sono’s hopes to get this car into the fleet.
Sono says paid reservations have increased from 13,000 last November to more than 19,000. That could mean a net sales volume of €415 million if all reservations result in sales. With an average down payment of $2,225, Sono could have more than $42 million in the bank to get it to production.
(By the way, if those numbers — 19,000 x $25,126 — don’t quite add up, it’s because the price of the Sion has shifted over time and previous backers have become grandfathers in their original prices, a company spokesperson said. )
To cut costs, Sono Motors has relied on outsourcing the manufacturing and distribution of its vehicle. Previously, Sono had planned to partner with NEVS, the Swedish EV manufacturer that acquired the assets of the bankrupt Saab Automobile in 2012. But the parent company of NEVS, Evergrande, is deeply in debt and still trying to sell NEVS, which is still struggling to get its Saab 9-3 into production.
Sono switched in April and signed a contract with a new partner, Valmet Automotive, which manufactures in Finland.
The solar bus kit
While Sono’s solar bus kit can’t turn a diesel-pumping bus into an eco-friendly hybrid, it can take some of the emissions out of the equation.
The kit, which is standardized to work with “virtually all European bus fleets”, can save up to 1,500 liters of diesel and up to 4 tons of CO2 per bus per year, according to the company. The total size of approximately 8 square meters of solar panels provides approximately 1.4 kW at peak installation. That solar energy can be used to power bus subsystems, such as HVAC.
Sono said bus fleet operators expect a potential payback of about three to four years, depending on sunny days in operation and fuel prices.
At CES 2021, Sono said it would license its solar panel technology to other companies as an additional source of revenue, and this new bus kit is part of that move to diversify the company.
Since its IPO, Sono says it has ongoing letters of intent, pilots and prototypes for 19 companies implementing the company’s solar technology on a variety of vehicle architectures, such as buses, trailers, trucks and electric transporters. For example, Sono recently tested a solar bus trailer in Munich to provide backup power for public transport. Sono has also partnered with the Reefer Group, a refrigerated trailer manufacturer, to build a solar trailer for testing.
The company said its B2B solar business is already generating revenue, more details of which will be shared during the company’s earnings call in September. Sono’s stock has plummeted since its debut, losing nearly 93% of its value, so the company will definitely have to earn a new source of income when it gets back into production next year.
Why Sono Stocks Have Taken a Hit
When Sono Group, the parent company of Sono Motors, started trading, it opened at $20.06 after the IPO was initially priced at $15. The shares peaked at $38.74 before the market closed on day one. At the time of writing, Sono Group is trading for $2.64, a slide that continued even after the company unveiled the production version of the Sion.
It seems the buzz around EV startups has started to hiss.
In May, Sono closed the previously announced underwritten follow-up offering of 10 million shares of common stock, with an additional 1.5 million shares available to the underwriters — including Cantor Fitzgerald and B. Riley Securities — at an even bigger discount.
Sono said it made $40 million in gross proceeds from this offering, which it has used to fund the start of production on its Sion, but investors are likely to view the offering as one that devalues stocks to an even greater degree. .
This post Sono Motors unveils final design of its solar-charging Sion EV TechCrunch
was original published at “https://techcrunch.com/2022/07/26/sono-motors-reveals-final-design-of-its-solar-charging-sion-ev/”