German e-car charges itself

The solar electric car Sion should cost around 30,000 francs.image: sono motors

Small and large manufacturers have been working on the self-charging solar car for a long time. Now the first is ready for production. It offers space for the whole family and the price is right.

31.07.2022, 19:1631.07.2022, 23:10

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No more annoying waiting at the charging station, just let yourself be carried away by your desire to travel and, in the best case, get along without recharging: With a self-charging solar car, this dream could come true. Engineers and developers in small and large companies around the world are working on the numerous technical challenges and are getting closer to the solution step by step. The Sion of the Munich startup Sono Motors faces the competition in electromobility.

First affordable solar e-car

Angular box: In order to create as much space as possible and to reduce the technical effort, the Sion relies on straight shapes.

Angular box: In order to create as much space as possible and to reduce the technical effort, the Sion relies on straight shapes.picture: Sono Motors/Martin Meiners

“The Sion is the first affordable, solar electric car,” says the managing director of Sono Motors, Jona Christians. According to the website, it costs 29,900 euros. This deliberately sets it apart from the Lightyear Zero (see below), which is in a significantly higher price league.

The price should be made possible by a simple construction, the use of standardized supplier parts and the omission of all extras and options. The Bavarians even want to make repairs cheaper. Do-it-yourself videos on the Internet should contribute to this.

Spacious: the trunk holds 650 liters.

Spacious: the trunk holds 650 liters.image: Sono Motors

The special thing about the family car: 456 solar cells are integrated into the body, which supply the Sion with clean energy – on the roof, on the front hood or on the sides. On average, the solar car uses the cells to charge enough electricity per week to drive 112 kilometers. In addition, there is a battery with a capacity of 54 kilowatt hours, enough for a driving distance of a good 300 kilometers. The Sion drives with a 163 hp engine and reaches a maximum of 140 km/h.

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Slight design changes

Reduced and networked: the interior air is filtered with moss, the car can be started via smartphone and thus shared digitally with friends.

Reduced and networked: the interior air is filtered with moss, the car can be started via smartphone and thus shared digitally with friends.image: sono motors

On the way to series release, Sono has once again smoothed the design a bit compared to the previous prototypes, selected new headlights and taillights and cleaned up the interior.

Clearly visible sign of the green orientation: the moss decoration behind glass in the dashboard. According to the manufacturer, the treated moss should ensure a good indoor climate, is downstream of a standard air filter and should be replaced at the same time as this.

So many solar cars have already been made

What began ten years ago in a garage is now a listed company with almost 400 employees. The Sion is scheduled to go into series production in the next half of the year and be on the market in the second half of 2023. Around 19,000 solar cars have already been pre-ordered, with interested parties paying an average of 2,225 euros in advance – this is how the development of the car was financed.

In total, the company wants to have 257,000 vehicles manufactured over the next seven years.

Other companies are also working on solar cars

Lightyear Zero: The electric car with solar panels should cost around 250,000 francs.

Lightyear Zero: The electric car with solar panels should cost around 250,000 francs.Bild: Lightyear

But Sono Motors is not the only company working on a solar car that is as autonomous as possible. Under the sun of northern Spain, the startup Lightyear developed the futuristic-looking “0” – with a total of five square meters of solar cells, the car generates enough energy to cover up to 70 kilometers a day.

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According to the company, those who drive little can do without conventional charging at the socket completely, at least in summer. However, this freedom comes at a cost: Solar fans have to shell out around 250,000 francs for the car – another model for around 30,000 francs should be available in two to three years.

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular

The market for electric cars is exploding: in Germany alone, around 356,000 exclusively battery-powered vehicles were registered last year, significantly more than ever before. In Switzerland there were 32,000 e-cars, compared to just 20,000 the year before.

No wonder, then, that major manufacturers are also entering the market and equipping their latest models with solar cells: Toyota already offers customers the option of adding a solar roof to the hybrid Prius, and the first purely electric Toyota BZ4X also has a solar roof.

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The prototype of the Tesla pick-up (the production model has been announced for the coming year) also uses solar energy with the help of solar cells. Mercedes also equips its EQXX with its own solar system.

Solar boom in the car market

According to the US energy expert Gregory Nemet from the University of Wisconsin, the low prices for solar cells favor the solar boom in the car market. “Solar cells have become so cheap that it’s worth installing them even in less sunny regions,” he says. “Even if the solar energy is not enough to fully charge the car in one day, it is still enough energy to commute between home and work.”

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A lot is gained with little additional investment – provided there is still a parking space in the sun. The 456 solar cells of the Sion, for example, like it bright: The 112 additional kilometers are the average value – with enough hours of sunshine, up to 245 additional solar kilometers per week are possible according to Sono Motors.


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The e-mobile in the test

Video: watson

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