What has room for six passengers, an all electric range of up to 155 miles, and a body covered in solar panels that can add as many as 18 miles of driving a day from sunlight? That would be the Sono Motors Sion, an innovative solar powered car from a team of German entrepreneurs that is scheduled to have its world debut on July 27.
The Sion project was able to move forward thanks to an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign last year that raised over a half million dollars. More than 1,000 people have participated so far. The car will have two versions. The Urban comes with a 14.4 kilowatt-hour battery pack. It has a range of about 75 miles and will cost $13,200. The Extender version has a 30 kilowatt-hour battery and a range of 155 miles. Its target price is $17,600. Neither price includes the battery. Like the Renault Zoe, customers will either buy the battery separately or lease it. The leasing option gives owners the flexibility to upgrade the battery later as improvements in battery technology become available.
The hood, roof and rear hatch of the Sion are covered with monocrystalline silicon cells that are 21% efficient. On a sunny day, they can generate enough electricity to add 18 miles of range. The solar cells are eight millimeters thick and embedded in a polycarbonate layer that is shatterproof, weather resistant and light in weight. The Sion can also be 80% charged using an AC outlet in about 30 minutes, according to company claims. No DC charging option is available. The car also comes with an outlet that can power electronic devices.
Inside, all the seats of the five door hatchback fold flat, offering multiple configurations for carrying passengers and cargo. There is a 10 inch center display and smartphone connectivity via wifi or Bluetooth. The ventilation system is called breSono and incorporates a dollop of moss, which is said to act as a natural filter when an electrical charge is applied.
The company will offer an online maintenance and repair system it calls reSono. It allows owners to order parts online and comes with a video that shows them how to install the parts when they arrive. Or they can take the car and the parts to any local auto repair shop facility to get them installed.
Test drives will be available starting in September with production beginning next year. Sono is emulating the approach used by DHL with its electric delivery vans. It is sourcing most of the components to build its cars from existing OEM suppliers so it can concentrate on getting the design right and incorporating suggestions from its online community into the final product. The Sion is perhaps a bit small for American customers but it should appeal strongly to Europeans who live in crowded cities where parking is at a premium.