Tesla’s Elon Musk doesn’t believe we’re at the stage of adding solar panels to our cars, but that hasn’t stopped one German startup. Sono Motors has created the Sion, an electric vehicle that has panels plastered all over the unit. While it’s likely not enough power to plan a roadtrip with them, it’s certainly one of the more affordable options that could get people by who have short commutes. And even if you're not ready to commit to an EV, you still have the chance to take one for a test-drive.
Sono Motors officially unveiled the new car at a release event back on July 27th in front of 700 people. From August 18th through October 30th, the company will be sending out a test-drive prototype for those that want to experience the Sion hands-on. The press release states that it will stop “in at least 12 cities and 7 countries.” There will be two different versions of the vehicle, the “Model I Extender” and “Model II Urban,” and people can place preorders now.
The Sion was crowdfunded successfully on Indiegogo, raising nearly $650,000 US. It reached 120 percent of its goal, showing that people were very interested in the surprisingly affordable electric vehicle. The Model I features a range of 155 miles and costs just $17,600 US. They also note that it’s geared toward “families and city commuters of the middle class.” Its partner, the Model II, is about half the range and is listed at $13,200 US.
Part of the reason Model I is cheaper than the competition is the compact van form and it doesn’t include a battery. Translating the specifications to feet, it measures in at a length of 13.5 feet, width of 5.9 feet, and a height of 5.5 feet. While a tight fit for a five-seat vehicle on paper, the form does give it a spacious trunk. Batteries can be rented or purchased separately, giving owners the potential to swap them out if needed for longer trips.
Obviously, the major selling point of the Sion are the solar panels. The technology is called viSono, and there’s roughly 80 square feet of solar surface on the vehicle. Packed in these panels are 330 High-efficiency SunPower cells that feature 24 percent efficiency, according to the specifications. It’s enough to generate nearly 19 miles per day.
For those that need a quicker charge, it's handled to similarly to other electric vehicles. Both versions can reach an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. Other features the vehicles have are “reSono” and “breSono.” reSono gives owners the ability to quickly order spare parts they need to maintain their vehicle. Should it require a little more work, any repair shop will get access to the full manual to fix the issues.
Notably, breSono is a unique air filtering system in the dashboard of the Sion. It’s a moss that is able to grow on the moisture of the air, giving drivers a natural air conditioner. Benefits of the moss include absorbing outside sounds and it filters 20 percent of fine dust particles. There’s no need to maintain the system and it’s exchanged at the same time the artificial air filter is.
While we’ve seen the success of solar-powered cars, Sono Motors looks to have the start of a modern vehicle for families. The car is expected to be available in 2019 and worldwide shipping will be an option. It doesn’t boast great range, but it’s absolutely an intriguing EV for those on a tight budget.