Sono Motors Sion Solar Car Is Charging Up Orders


While still about a year from production.

It’s been a year since Sono Motors unveiled the Sion — an all-electric car with some extremely unique features. Although official production only begins in the latter half of 2019, the German vehicle is now in the final development phase of its charging system. If you’ve watched the video above, you may have noticed it mentions 5,000 pre-orders. Since the promotional footage first aired in June, that number has swelled to 6,500, showing that there is an audience for the Sion.

It’s quite common for people to suggest solar panels be put on the exterior of electric cars, but the proposition is typically waved away, since the amount of collected rays do little to boost the car’s range and could be expensive to implement. The Sono Motors team has ignored this well-meant advice and splattered the entire vehicle with them. In all, it boasts 330 cells, which its makers say can add 30 km (18.64 miles) of range on a sunny day. Of course, with enough battery to travel 250 km (155.34 miles) without extra assistance, one needn’t depend on the panels alone. But, they create a direct visual connection to the energy usage, so we have the give this feature two enthusiastic thumbs up.

At 16,000 Euros ($18,276) — this price doesn’t include the 30-kWh  battery which can either be leased or bought outright for 4,000 Euros ($4,569) —  it’s not the cheapest vehicle on the planet, but it’s probably the only one that uses moss in its ventilation system to help clean the air insides its cozy confines. Speaking of cozy, it’s said to seat five, though we expect those in the back seat will want to be on good terms with each other. It also will have an optional towing package, which helps with its utilitarian credentials.

One other feature we found intriguing is its bi-directional charging. In the video above, they demonstrate how you can plug a cord into the car and use its solar-enhanced electrons to charge up an electric bicycle battery. Neato, right?

If that one-minute clip wasn’t enough to satiate your curiosity, we’ve included a bonus video below if the Sion’s 2018 tour. With some great opinions and observations from people being introduced to the vehicle for the first time, make sure you hit the closed captioning (CC) button for translation of the non-English parts. Enjoy!


Source: Reuters, YouTube

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67 Comments on "Sono Motors Sion Solar Car Is Charging Up Orders"

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I understand that it’s just a prototype. But did they have to do it so fugly? It’s the Steve Urkel of EV’s…


I really hope they succeed with this! It seems to me that they are on a good way to do so. The price is quite nice regarding the fact that you will get a car which can literally recharge without the need for a plug.

For many European customers 30 kilometres a day is more than they usually drive. At least in the summer those people will enjoy the freedom from fossil fuel AND won’t have to plug in.

If two young people without too much experience can come up with such a vehicle one might want to imagine what an established car maker with thousands of engineers, a heavy development budget and established connections to top suppliers could come up with…

Will we soon see the 400 mile / 50 mile a day on solar / 15000$ car? (I guess not yet… But the pathway to that is shown by those young enthusiasts)

Don’t forget, this will be the first! of its kind. Future is bright!

Solar cells on the market to-day are about 18% efficient with some very expensive ones used for space satellites up to 35%. Just like the never-ending stream of battery “breakthrough” announcements proclaiming 5x to 10x current battery energy density, so have there been announcements for solar cells up to 75%. I don’t understand how these can work in the lab, but fail to get to production. Anyhow, if the day comes, this car could have 3x the efficiency and therefore range.

AFAIK silicon cells on the market today go up to about 22%, for about 20% panel efficiency.

The highest lab records for non-silicon cells are somewhere around 55% IIRC, for quad-junction cells with concentrators. Don’t remember the exact numbers — but pretty sure it’s nothing close to 75%.

Beside prohibitive costs (and probably practicality issues with concentrators?), AIUI the major reason why these experimental cells can’t go into production, is that these prototypes are usually tiny, with no method known to produce them in larger sizes; and the fact that they generally aren’t stable enough to last for 25 years or so.

The cells they are using are 24%, to-day.

How do you expect the range to almost triple? You think they can suddenly come up with solar cells three times more efficient? (While thousands of researchers around the globe are celebrating every 0.5% gain?…) Or reduce weight and air drag to one third?…

Sorry to break your illusion — but having much more resources available, doesn’t help bending the laws of physics.

Of course a tripling of solar range might seem a little bit overoptimistic… but:
Lets go with more realistic numbers for let’s say a 2025 vehicle
-increase cell efficiency by 5%
-increase cell coverage area by 10-15%
-decrease losses due to cabling resistance 5%
-increase charger efficiency 2%
-increase battery energy density x%
-decrease aero resistance by x%
-decrease total car weight x%
-decrease roll resistance tires x%
-increase drivetrain efficiency x%
-increase regen max power x%
-decrease consumption of non-driving related car components
-reduce motor weight

Heck. There are a number of ways to achieve a higher range on solar. Those mentioned are just some of the obvious ones. If 100 engineers can find 100 ways to improve the overall efficiency and each single point of optimization yields 0.5-5% we are at least on the way to doubling solar range. 2025 is quite far in the future… really no need for a breakthrough. Just steadily improve EACH subsystem of the car. As for the price, mass production will be the key. Remember the Sion is literally hand-built.

Yes we can 😉

Still way too optimistic. I don’t see much room to improve coverage more than a few percent; cabling resistance is negligible; electric power trains only have a few percent left for further optimisations at the very best; aerodynamically optimised cars (such as Teslas for example) are already close to what is achievable for a given vehicle size and overall shape; light-weighting, tires etc. are limited by safety concerns…

Sure, there will always be ways to squeeze out another fraction of a percent here or there — but you are increasingly hitting diminishing returns. I’m fairly sure the 8 kWh/km they claim are already relatively close to what is realistically doable for a practical (and street-legal) car of this size, no matter the investment. Anything beyond maybe a 20% or 30% improvement would be a miracle.

“but having much more resources available, doesn’t help bending the laws of physics.” Engineers typically USE the laws of physics… No need for bending them. If one (extremely lazy) engineer can come up with 5 ways to increase range within 5 minutes, you might want to imagine what 1000 (not that lazy) engineers could achieve in 5 years. Having much more resources available definitely will help in that process. Remember the Sion was designed by 2 students. If you really think what they already achieved with their hard work is the optimum or even close to that, you might just want to imagine how much work it was to come up with that car. What allowed them do achieve that goal was their positive attitude. With an attitude of “That’s impossible” one will achieve 0. Using 2017 and older tech they achieved quite a lot. There is virtually no way that a team of engineers each experts in their field wouldn’t be able to substantially increase range using the tech that will come up during the next years. Those are the very early stages of solar cars. We just went from “That’s impossible” to “Ooops, it can be done…” now… Read more »

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

We didn’t go from “impossible” to “can be done”. We went from “it would be a gimmick with very limited practical value” to “they went ahead and implemented the gimmick with very limited practical value”. What are the five ways to increase range you are talking about? Just to be clear: postulating potential improvements in certain areas is *not* coming up with ideas. Unless you can actually present specific ways that the original engineers weren’t able to pursue, it’s completely meaningless. Just throwing more resources at a problem doesn’t mean you will automatically come up with significant breakthroughs. In most areas there are narrow limits to what is physically or practically possible. Electric drive train technology for example has been honed for decades by thousands of engineers. It’s already approaching 90% in mainstream vehicles, so there is not much room for improvement; and any further gain of some fractions of a percent is an uphill battle. Just throwing a lot of resources on it will *not* allow you to significantly advance beyond the state of the art. Same for chargers: advanced power supplies (which is essentially what a charger is), are already beyond 90%; so there isn’t much left to… Read more »

First car to have solar panels all over the body. Perfect functional design.
Hope they succeed.
I wish Tesla also have plans to include solar at least in upcoming Model-Y.


“I wish Tesla also have plans to include solar at least in upcoming Model-Y.”

Even better: I wish Tesla would buy Sion, Transition design to make it look slightly more fitting into their design language. Call it “Tesla Model µ” or “Tesla Nano” hihihi… well… I guess they’ll find a cute name… Then cramp in all of the latest tech, use their experience to make it better, use their (by then established) manufacturing experience, use their sales network, etc… and BÄM! we will see the 2025 solar car with abovementioned specs 😉

(Disclaimer: I am not posting under the influence of any substances. I am posting under the influence of positive thinking)

Future is bright!

Hear here!

Thanks for a beautifully written, entertaining story!
Here’s wishing for Sion to succeed.

I have a love/hate relationship with this idea. I love solar. I power my home and EV with solar power. I have a MyEnergi Zappi charger that only charges when the sun shines so yes I power not offset with solar power. I charge from the shady comfort of a garage. I live in a hot climate where I do not desire to park my battery in the heat of the sun, so I will always prefer a canopy of some type to solar charge.

However, I am not representative of all geographies. I think this is a good idea for some moderate climates with plenty of solar energy. As mentioned above, panels will only become more efficient adding range. Transparent panels are now coming out of the labs into production. If they can accomplish the safety requirement of automotive glass, then you just added a substantial area for more energy.

Heh, I guess making up for the energy used for keeping the battery cool while parked in the sun, is about as much as these cells are realistically useful for 😉

Your guessing leads nowhere. It just reflects your negativity. Luckily there are enough people out there who have a visionary kind of thinking. Those are the ones who will help mankind to live in a better future.

Of course we can always look at new things from the negative side, but that’s just a fear of change. Meanwhile in less developed countries future is developed while in the “first word” people are so stuck in protecting the status quo. It seems to be a thing that repeats all over again. Werent the greeks quite forward thinking people, leaders in science etc… Just take a look at greece now and you will get an impression of what Europe, the US and Japan will look like…

Laziness is a direct result of beeing content.

But hey, we can always mock on China for beeing “unfair”. The main reason for the US and others lacking behind is the negative attitude towards innovation.

Or perhaps Antrik, unlike you, understands that the limitation here isn’t the efficiency of the solar cells; the limitation is the amount of energy available from sunlight per square foot/meter. Even coating the entire car in 100% efficient solar panels wouldn’t yield sufficient energy to push a street-legal, highway capable car down the road at freeway speed for more than several miles, even if it sat out in direct sunlight all day long.

All the wishful thinking in the world won’t change the laws of physics. If you think it will, then go join the tinfoil hat gang who think perpetual motion is possible.

So you really don’t know what you are talking about. You can stop invoking the laws of physics, I’m sure they want nothing to do with you.

Just found that the total cell coverage is 7.5 sqm…that’s 4.5 of my panels (LG 320). My panels have poor orientation and are only at a optimal angle for half day. 4.5 panels get me 8.5 kWh per day. As i said before, 75% of the cells will be exposed at any given time during the day so about 6.3kWh left. Now consider the sun angles throught the day and say capacity is cut in half due to that and still have over 3kWh left….that number is based on my panel rating which is inferior to what they have listed (19.5 vs 24 efficiency). Also you have to consider some ev are way more efficient than others. While Tesla is at around 3 miles per KWh the Ionic is close to 6. Again, their numbers are not just possible but are probable.

The Model 3 is much better than 3 miles per kWh. On highway, it’s actually marginally better than the IONIQ, at 130 vs. 129 MPGe or something like that. (The IONIQ is still quite a bit better in city driving.)

The numbers they claim are certainly possible as a theoretical best case — I just don’t see these adding much value in practice. (Nor room for game-changing improvements on top of that.)

I’m not a pessimist in general. I just tend to base my optimism or lack thereof on trying to understand what is actually possible in specific areas, rather than just blindly trusting that anything can improve just because.

Also, you might want to refrain from calling the Greeks lazy, considering that they actually work much longer hours on average than many other Europeans…

Enough with the bs, Sion. Post your specs and let us do the math on how far it can go on a sunny day.
Personally, I don’t buy it. 18 miles? How? On the back of a flatbed truck? Seriously, i want to see the specs. How slow do you have to drive to achieve this? what is the efficiency at 50mph? Is this car underpowered? Is that 18 mile hypothetical production from all cells, something that can never happen in real life due to angles on the panels? The solar cells look like they get cut from panels so i guess they didn’t invent a more efficient cell so nothing higher than 25% conversion.

You could have read their FAQ or the facts sheet. Then you would know that the solar panels are supposed to have 1.2 kWp. Assuming only part of that will be toward the sun and some of that not in an ideal angle, let’s assume 50% of peak power during the day. So 8 hours of full suna day would give it just short of 5 kWh. Given the (also avaliable) proposed 14 kWh/100 km consumption, that would result in 34 km. Yes, 8 hours is a generous assumption, but we are talking optimal numbers in the summer here.
So, as a ball park number under favorable conditions, this is at least the right order of magnitude 🙂

I was just doing some math and also found another video with some specs.
Side cells=65 (so 130 for both sides)

I have LG panels on my roof, with almost 20% efficiency. Each panel has 60 cells and produces 1.9kWh per day right now and are on W and E orientation at about 30 degrees. During the day, the worst angle for this car is at noon where only the top and hood are exposed while the 2 sides and back will probably produce at maybe 20%. Usually, most of the day one side, hood and top will be producing so you could in theory get close to 7kWh in a sunny day in CA. That translates to 32 miles in my eGolf. Now i wonder why their numbers are so low.
Of course, in all of this I’m assuming that their cells size equals mine…which is probably not the case…

Silicon solar cells rapidly lose power when light falls at an angle; so even under ideal conditions, the power produced by this arrangement is probably less then half the peak power of all the individual cells combined. That seems to more or less add up to the numbers they claim…

(Though under more typical conditions, I guess people would be lucky to regularly get more than 10 km per day…)

I don’t know about that, I’m begging to think they may be right. My panels are at a proper angle only half of the day and still manage to get almost 2kWh each. I really wanna know what the cell size is…

Silicon solar cells are all pretty much the same size: 156×156 mm.

Monocrystalline cells — like those they are using here, and also your high-performance residential panels — are constrained by the fact that they are cut from a 200 mm circular wafer. (Same as most electronics chips.) Polycrystalline cells could probably be made in more diverse sizes with little effort; but generally seem to use the same size as the monocrystalline ones, for better uniformity in production as well as installation I presume.

Agreed. With that in mind, the side panels are a waste/gimic. The money would be better spent on a tilting roof module or flip-up modules for when the car is parked.

Just some guesses…

First, it makes a huge difference when a module is not ideally pitched toward the sun. Same with asmuth.

Second, polycarboate is super strong, but at least some of the PC panels out there block UV light. I wonder if it is so with Sono’s PC panels.

Third, to keep costs low, they may be using inferior cells. LG does not make the best, but they are very good. (Sun Power makes the very best, no question about it.)

However, Sono should benefit from the DC-to-DC charging efficiency that you do not have.

Somebody mentioned that some power might be diverted to battery-cooling.

Mid latitude countries get 12+ hours of sun in summer and just less than 8 hours in winter. So an average of 10 hours is apt for calculations, a 25% greater period.

I don’t know. Park for 8-12 hours a day on a sunny day

I met a guy in Providence a few years back who put PV cells all over a 2013 Leaf’s roof and was getting 10 miles a day while only puggling in a few times a year for longer trips. That was PV modules have become about 20% more productive per square meter since then. (I work in solar.)

He still had not installed cells on any other parts of the car. And he was bought cheapo Chinese seconds from Ebay, not primo cells like Sun Power, though they were still monochrystaline.

The key you are all missing is that DC-to-DC charging is much more efficient.

So yeah, they can get that extended range out of those cells. It may be wise for them to offer flip-up panels for when the car is parked.

I would love this goofy car if it is sold in the U.S. and has battery temp management. (NEVER buy an EV without it!!!!!!!) Perfect for my wife’s driving. It would never need to be plugged-in. I need a Bolt or Model 3 for my sales work.

Oh boy…typos galore on my post.

Terrible Samsung keyboard, folks.

It’s worth noting (and this really should have been in the article) that the price of $16k EURO does not include the battery, which is expected to be another $4k EURO. Total price is expected to be around $23k USD.
This article from last year’s reveal has the best facts:

Solid point, Brandon. Thanks!
I’ve added this information.

NO 1 expecting owner

NO 1 expecting

We retired from a 50 mile pounding freeway/dead stop commute and now have completely different needs, now, we go on a trip or go 4 miles a day shopping.
When we lived more downtown with a walking commute, the challenge was to remember where we parked 3 days ago.
So don’t make fun of this plug-less feature, every ones needs are different even if it seems like the advertisers want us all to tow airstream trailers or be competitive on the Nurburgring.
This has potential, I’ll be paying attention to a Tesla powered motor home with acres of solar panels.
I could be dead for years, beer in hand, before the auto-pilot coach was pulled over for expired tabs.

@Domenick Thank you excellent article. People are questioning the areas it could run it. But lets not forget that BYD full sized commercial bus that only had 2015 panel across the top that BYD said could run all day long on the Tibetan plateau on the panels alone as long as the sun was out. There are even electric train with this approach now. It is so incredibly important to cover the basic commute range and cut away every possible area that fossil fuel rent seeking or any kind of rent seeking can come into play. These types of cord and pump cutting tech crucially supplement high indexed basic income as a way to end the use of money as a means fo controlling people and bring real freedom to the globe along with the stability that would bring.

Nope, the “solar” train uses the panels only to power some auxiliary systems. I bet the same is true for the bus. Running constantly on sun power is totally impractical. Just take a look at what the vehicles taking part in the Solar Challenge look like — they don’t even resemble a normal car.

Actually if you just use the care for commutes and let it charge on the week ends (leaving it in the sun eeek) then in the US it would probably cover 80-90% of commute energy costs.

Off by a factor of three or four, going by average US daily commute.

Researched some German sites, it seems like there is a lot of scepticism around this car. The cars that they are showing seems to have a borrowed BMW i3 drivetrain, like a kit car.

Maybe they will buy the drivetrain from BMW?

And sell it for half the i3 price? It doesn’t add up.

Exactly, it doesn’t add up.

This car won’t have the range (on solar power alone) they claim, nor will it be as cheap as they claim. If it was possible to sell an (almost) 5-seat, street-legal, highway-capable EV with a 35-45 kWh battery pack for $23k, even without any solar cells, then some other auto maker would already be selling something similar for a similar price. That is, unless you really think they have some breakthru tech that they’re keeping secret.

As they say: “If it sounds too good to be true… then it probably is.”

And I see I’m far from the only one expressing extreme doubts over the claims here. According to Wikipedia:

In several electromobility forums, criticism was voiced, according to which the announcements of the start-up to the vehicle were unrealistically ambitious. In the prototype vehicles, individual observers recognized parts of the interior, chassis and drive of the BMW i3 with a concealed or removed BMW trademark. This questioned the creation height of the prototype and made the announcements appear doubtful.

If we had $100 for evey phony start-up…

Yeah, I would not place a deposit. I can quickly think of six “ground-breaking” start-ups that stole people’s deposits over the past 10 years. I am not fooled by beautifully lit, hipster videos of employees in seemingly important conversation with each other, overlayed with clubbsy EM soundtracks.

That stated, if they can actually import to the U.S., I would consider them.

Frankly, Tesla rules, and is set to rule for the next 20+ years. GM also makes a fine EV. I hear Renault makes a good EV, too. And Nissan is finally offering longer range and battery management as of this week.

Those are the only brands for EV consumers to consider, IMO. All others promise, but cannot deliver. Any other brand is a poor value or a poor risk. Jag finally delivered some EVs and the range is far too low, with much too poor efficiency and way too much money.

That’s funny. Your argument is exactly what? Yes… Both cars have a steering wheel. Seats… display… ehhm… Yeah quite similar indeed, if you want to focus on a non-argument you can do so…

Meanwhile the NEWS is that there soon will be a SOLAR CAR on the market. That’s great!

This kind of reminds me of that stupid discussion i read in the insideevs comments section some years ago… Topic: BYD Busses. People arguing about the windshield and wipers… Overseeing the fact that BYD was building electric busses. Now, just 2-3 years later we can conclude that Shenzen is full of electric busses. Who cares about windshields, interiour design etc? That’s just a waste of time.

The point is that if their prototype is just a modified i3, that means they didn’t actually design a complete car they could put into production. Which frankly would explain a lot…

And why exactly do you wonder about that well known german Angst inspired scepticism? Of course German sites are full of scepticism. Otherwise they would have to ask why BMW, VW and the likes can’t accomplish what a small group of young people can do. The answer to that question would be… Well…

Well. There are several ways you can look at that. Yes they MAINLY use parts which are already developed. That’s how they achieved the “impossible” goal of designing and building a solar car. Remember we are talking about 2-3 individuals, not a car company with huge resources.

They have done great work. If you can do better, do so! No need to talk down what they have done.

Of course a large company would have come up with a more sophisticated, specialized solution. But they just don’t.

Let’s keep in mind that this is a prototype, and the parts used may very well not reflect the final production vehicle.

18 miles is 2/3 of daily commute. Not bad for a startup

Now, 18 miles ≈ 4 days of commuting to work, for me. So I tend to use my e-bike insted of a car.
It they get this car in production, with an OK price, and quality is OK – it will sell for sure.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought about paneling my eGolf, could be a nice project.
15 miles a day you would get in places like LA. On work comute alone the panels would save me about $350/year. That’s big on a $20k car.

I seem to recall reading that in practice, you’d get perhaps 8-9 miles a day from a solar cell covered car, and that’s on a bright sunny day with no shade.

The claims for this car seem to be too good to be true… almost certainly because they are.

Do the math yourself and see that this is not only possible but highly probable with 24% cell efficiency. During the day the sun sits at a 90 angle only for a few minutes so the rest of the day 75% of cells (top, hood and one side make up 75%) will be producing at over 50% combined capacity (say 25-40% for the low angle -side cells- and 70-90% for top and hood) while the shaded side and back will put up about 10%. From the 1.2 kWp posted x75% (which is not something incredible for this type of area coverage) at 50% capacity for 8 hours you get close to 3.5kWh. My primitive EGolf gets 4.5-4.7 miles per kWh ….i will let you finish the rest of the equation.
What would you do with 5500 free miles a year? I agree on your point on costs but that’s it, that’s all you got.

I met a guy in Providence who did that to a 2013 Leaf, only on the roof, and he could get 10 miles every day. Only plugged in a few times each year. And that was before PV cells improved by 20%. He was using cheapo, reject Chinese cells (though they were monos) he bought in lots on Ebay. Sun Power PV cells would work best.

He fastened them with industrial double-stick tape (carpet tape?), which he said worked up to top speed for the car.

He gets the added efficiency of DC-to-DC charging.

In only cost him about $200 total, so he quickly recovered his investment.

You can find his video on You Tube.

Believe me, I have thought about buying a used leaf for $8000 and doing the same.

Make sure it is a late 2013 or newer, following Nissan’s fix to their batteries dying prematurely, if you do this to a Leaf.

I want toen test it

I want toen test it

Purely out of idle curiosity I did test drive this car in Switzerland, in April 2018, when Sono was on a European promotional tour. It lasted ~10 minutes, including initial instructions, and consisted of a few loops around a private premises (disused factory), accompanied by the salesman.

Whereas straight-line acceleration was OK, basically everything else mechanical about the vehicle was fairly suspect. Handling/suspension and braking all seemed sub-par compared to something like a Toyota Yaris. The interior was beyond minimalistic, IMO barely developed, for which the moss bank in the dash made a poor substitute. They unconvincingly claimed the battery would be liquid-cooled and I dread to think how the driver of this ensemble would emerge from any non-minor accident.

In any case it was a more than sufficient introduction to conclude I must definitely never buy one! However, best of luck to those brave souls who do …

Or, as someone else reassuringly remarked:

Das ist zum Glück nur der Prototyp, also keine Sorge wegen dem Aussehen. Nächstes Jahr sollen sie wohl einen neuen Designer bekommen, weil der jetzige dann keine Zeit mehr hat: Er ist dann alt genug und kommt in den Kindergarten…

“Luckily it’s only the prototype, so don’t worry about the looks. Next year they are indeed getting a new designer, because the current one will no longer have the time: by then he’ll be old enough to start Kindergarten.”