Range Anxiety? What’s That? With Sono Motors Sion, It’s the EV That Recharges Itself
At first glance of the Sono Sion (not Scion) you would think it’s something of a Prius C that has been mutated into a rolling brocade of solar roof panels. In actuality, Sion is a battery electric vehicle in which you have the option to buy or lease the battery, because depending on how you use the car, the solar panels can act as range extenders for the battery. It’s the EV that recharges itself:
- Sono Motors is a German start up in Bavaria by a bunch of young smart wonderkids looking to save to the world.
- They will offer only one vehicle, the Sion, a solar BEV 4 door utility vehicle.
- MRP: $18,500 without battery, $23,121 with, in USD with 500€ deposit required online at their website.
- It’s about the size and shape of a Prius C, perhaps a bit larger.
- The solar panels surround and top the car providing 18 miles of range per day.
- Seats 5, but they’re thinking about squeezing in a third row.
- The company’s ethos is to keep it simple: sell only one car, few options, one color, that’s it.
- The prototypes are in either black or white. The production model will come in only one color of these two. They’ll decide with customer feedback.
- The only options will be a trailer hitch and the battery.
- The battery is optional because it is expensive and some customers may either choose battery leasing option or to get another battery elsewhere.
- The battery is optional for purchase at $4,625 USD, or you can lease it in cycles starting monthly.
- They’re not saying yet which major car company helped them.
- Orders are worldwide but UK and Commonwealth countries: RHD not available yet.
- An app makes the car ready to provide services with compensation for: power sharing, car sharing, or ride sharing. You can lock/unlock remotely with the app.
Sono Sion Specs:
- 330 integrated solar cells covered in polycarbonate yields 30Km/day of extending range.
- Battery capacity of between 35kWh and 45kWh (tbc) water cooled lithium ion
- 80 kW (109 HP) 3-phase asynchronous motor, single speed transmission, rear wheel drive RWD.
- Top speed 140 km/hr, 87 mph, 0-100 km/hr or 0-62 mph in 9 secs.
- Battery Range 250Km or 155 miles, about the same as a Nissan Leaf.
- 1 pedal operation capability with regen braking.
- Bi-directional charging: car can be used as a power source for devices up to 2.7 kW or in an emergency. Type 2 to connect to another vehicle up to 7.6 kW.
- Dimensions L 162” W 70” H 66” Compared to Prius C: 160” 68” 59”
- Tow capacity 750 kg or 1650 lbs. “Tow ready”
- Weight: 1,400 Kg or 1.4-1.6 tons depending if battery equipped.
- Storage capacity: rear compartment 23 cu ft, folded down entire car 44 cu ft
- A/C standard with a filtration system that uses real but now dead moss in the dashboard.
- 10 inch infotainment screen, simple instrumentation, few if any buttons
- Infotainment, connectivity, heated front seats
- Household socket: 13 hours
- Type 2 Home/Destination: 80% 2.5 hours, 100% 3.5 hours
- Rapid Charge: 80% 30 mins
- Theft alarm
- Anti-lock brakes ABS
- SRS Airbags driver and front passenger side curtain
- Electronic stability and drive slip control ESC
- Reversing camera
- Warranty: 2 Years or 100,000 Km or 2,000 charging cycles whichever comes first.
- viSono: regenerating solar energy to provide 30Km of range each day.
- biSono: bi-directional charging by using the car as a power source
- breSono: using actual moss in the bio filtration system of the car to filter out dust particles.
- reSono: the Sono concept that Sion is an electric car that’s easy to repair on your own to save money. Sono provides resources to help you.
Ok, now there’s reason for everyone to turn in their smog producing hybrid cars, as Sono now gives us an electric car that not only makes PHEV hybrids officially obsolete, but also gives us an EV that recharges itself with the use of the sun. It seems solar panels are becoming an electric car maker’s tool in maximizing or supplementing range if not outright replacing the gas engine portion of a hybrid system. The German camper outfitters Dethleff have been experimenting with their e.Home series with an electric camper van all covered in solar panels edge to edge that makes up and helps with the woefully deficient range.
The nifty subcompact four door hatch utility has the shape of a Prius C with the looks up front of a BMW i3. Their website says,however, that’ll change by production when they introduce LED lighting to the outer perimeter of the car. The premise of the car is to provide simple basic transportation that reduces your carbon footprint. In that simplicity, Sono tries to make the process simple to go smoothly.
Simplicity in Design and Execution and Repair
They will make only one car. It will have as few options as possible, for now only a trailer hitch and the battery are the only options available. It comes in only one color, when they make up their minds, it’ll be either black or white (the black model prototype is the one pictured here and does a better job integrating the panels than the white one). This is the part I love about this car that has me worried about the legacy car companies when they start making electric cars full swing: the Sion, Sono says, is built to last and made to last with care, and most of the repairs you can do on your own to save money. This would make sense as the mechanical build of electric cars are so simple as they’re few moving parts, and thus logic dictates, less need for repairs. Sono promises a comprehensive shop manual for troubleshooting and an expansive online parts catalogue to replace needed components for the car.
One of the things electronic companies started doing before the turn of the century when electronic appliances like stereos and TVs switched over to solid state components, was that they started making products that were built to last. Do any of you remember the Sony Betamax video recorder? Those things were industrial grade. Eventually not for long. Realizing that they were losing money doing this, they started “dumbing down” the quality so that electronics had a limited life cycle forcing you to get a new TV or stereo more often over time. I hope that the legacy car makers don’t do that with electric cars. They’ve already been accused of doing that with gas cars.
With the car dealership business model requiring a healthy amount of customers do business with the service department, I don’t see how electric cars will sustain them. This is why dealers prefer servicing hybrids. And it wouldn’t surprise me if car makers starting doing the same thing to electric cars that electronics manufacturers were accused of doing re: quality control with their products decades ago and still now. BMW for example has been accused of doing this to their cars, as a 1990’s 3 series with 200,000 miles, ready to go another 100,000 miles, is something you’ll never see happen on a late model 3 series. I like how Sono Motors incorporates the longevity of their product into their business model, which makes the basic premise that electric cars are simple in construction, simple to repair, and should last just as long.
Walk Around the Vehicle
Simplistic in its design and style, the Sion is not skimpy. It’s fully loaded with the things you should expect in a car in this segment, from infotainment to air conditioning and front heated seats. The solar panels do take some getting used to, but they add an interesting design to the exterior, and represent the efficiencies of the car. To save weight, rust proof and scratch proof polycarbonate is liberally applied in and all around the car which also holds the 330 solar cells. The roof is see-though but only around the cells. The cells give you starting gate 30 Km of range each day. It’s performance specs make it close to the Nissan Leaf in the way it behaves with things like top speed, quarter mile, 0-60, and its 155 mile optional battery range.
The prototype is a working model in progress, so eventually all the BMW i3 parts used for it will obviously be removed for the production models. In the inside, simplicity continues with a simple 10 inch infotainment display and a second screen in front of the driver for basic functions. There are few if any buttons. In the words of Sono: “For the cockpit we used a very simple design, showing you how fast you are going and the charging level of your battery. On the left side you can see the number of kilometers generated through the viSono System. After 24 hours, these kilometers will be transferred to the right side, where they are added to the total range left.”
Efficiencies go right down to the functionality of the car itself as a utility vehicle. The split rear seat folds down to double the cargo capacity. They say they’re looking into whether they can put a third row in the rear. The car sits low to the ground suggesting the battery try may have something to do with that, but Sono says to wait until the production car to determine any height clearances. No AWD, but the jist from Sono is they want to get the car into production first with what they already have, to consider options and variants down the road.
This is a subcompact but Sono assures that interior ergonomics allow tall drivers to take control with ease and comfort. The UK and her commonwealth are going to have to wait until after production starts to see if they’ll get a RHD version.
Moss in the Dash
There is one feature that is fascinating that you just don’t get to see in other cars. It looks like a combination of a piece of artwork from the dash of a Rolls Royce Phantom and a National Merit Scholarship winner’s science project that doubles as a hydroponic station for growing pot: built into the dash is a lit window display that contains some green moss. Helping with its breSono filtration and ventilation system, the moss is now dead so you don’t ever have to worry about taking care of it.
Even in its preserved state, the moss still serves as a 20% filtration of dust particles while helping in regulating cabin humidity with the air conditioner. This ironically beats the VW Beetle’s answer to the application of still life inside a vehicle by adding a flower vase stand. In the Sion, you have a horticultural display as if it were Lenin’s tomb.
Website Ordering and Delivery Prognosis
Sono says on their website that customers should start taking delivery of their cars by the end of 2019. This probably means timetable considering, that production starts a few months/weeks beforehand. Test driving this car requires interested customers go to Germany to one of Sono’s designated locations to hook up with a prototype vehicle.
Sono does not have any global apparatus for customer service as of yet. They have a world map on their site showing locations around the globe including some places marked off in the states, but I believe those will be part of the service or parts department infrastructure, but for now I see no plans for setting up a dealer network anywhere. With a one product business model a network probably isn’t necessary anyway, and one of the reasons this startup lasted this long is because they’ve been able to keep costs down and quickly get from formation to pre-production to the production phase.
Having help from “a major European car manufacturer” certainly helps that it took only 7 months to get their prototypes out, but they aren’t prepared to say who it is. With all those BMW parts inside their protos that are glaring in some of their media pictures, if someone were to put a gun to my head and say guess which car company, then yeah. But according to the Sono website, Roding Automobile GmbH is giving them a hand as they have experience helping carmakers like Sono Motors bring their products to market, as well as their own.
The founders are three Bavarian wonderkids that when you listen to their story you fall in love with them and their storyline to hope they succeed. Since 2012 Laurin Hahn, Marina Persteiner, and Jona Christians have been working in places like garages, Steve Jobs style, building a prototype to slowly see their dream materialize. The company was founded in 2016 and they’re ready to start making cars as early as mid-year 2019. These three could be my niece and nephews, tomorrow’s billionaires. I hope they pull it off.
Orders for the car are taken worldwide online, so that’s the only place where you can actually purchase the car. I assume they’ll ship a car to the states for your delivery. And if they do that then the car has to be compliant with US DOT regulations in order to legally sell the car here. After final assembly the car is shipped for free to Bremerhaven. For an additional cost they’ll ship it anywhere else you want. This arrangement sounds perfect for going to Germany on vacation to pick up your car to use it there before having it shipped to the states.
You must put at least a 500€ deposit to secure a place on the approximately 7,200 person waitlist worldwide. You’ll get email updates as to the progress of your car. This car has the potential of becoming a game changer in the already emerging EV market. Not only to offer a BEV at a $25,000 USD price point but to do so for a BEV that never again you have to worry about range anxiety with solar roof panels. Experts as well as Sono says that the voltaic capability of the solar cells has improved as it seems that there isn’t enough coverage over the car, but that may lend itself as to why the solar range is about 18 miles, which in itself is remarkable.
Another selling point is that the car is a rolling power station. Whether you’re camping or there’s a power outage from a storm, disaster, or power grid failure, you have options with this car.
The price point alone will make this car very attractive to young demographics like Millennials who now have a truly affordable option of purchasing a new car, period, let alone electric. And if the federal EV tax credit is extended, that’ll mean an electric car that be had for as little as $11,000 with fed rebates alone!
What do you think of the electric car that recharges itself? Let us know below!
EDIT NOTE 9/11/18: In the previous version of this story I wrote that the Sion battery was optional as if it was not needed to operate the car, as the panels sufficed. This was how it was explained to me. That was incorrect. You do need the battery, but its option is to give the customer the choice of leasing it instead, maybe to get a better battery pack elsewhere. The story has since been updated and corrected. My sincere apologies for the confusion.