Sono Motors Previews Solar EV Prototype Across Europe

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【Summary】The vehicle is fitted with 330 solar panels on the roof, body and doors. So far, Sono Motors has received 2,500 pre-orders for the prototype.

Michael Cheng    Nov 02, 2017 11:41 AM PT
Sono Motors Previews Solar EV Prototype Across Europe

Due to inefficiencies related to solar panels and battery storage, it may take some time before solar-powered cars dominate city roads. However, such limitations aren't stopping automakers from attempting to commercialize the vehicles for mass adoption.

Sono Motors is a unique startup that is on a mission to do just that. Earlier this year, the Germany-based business unveiled Sion, a solar-powered EV, which is still under heavy development. The company has been showcasing its solar car prototype around Europe to get potential customers excited about the vehicle.

Test Drive Events

Sono Motors stopped at 12 cities and six countries during the tour. Individuals who attended the gathering were given a chance to test drive the unit. Based on uploaded footage of the test drives, it seems that development for Sion is coming along smoothly.

The vehicle is fitted with 330 solar panels on the roof, body and doors. The panels on the roof are semi-transparent, allowing natural light to pass through the ceiling. When sunlight exposure is lacking, drivers can charge the battery via a mainstream outlet. Cargo space is sufficient, with an available receptacle for powering compatible equipment. Inside, the unit seats five passengers (including the driver).

So far, Sono Motors has received 2,500 pre-orders for the prototype. Once the startup crosses 5,000 pre-orders, it can move into production mode – slated for 2019. With a successful crowdfunding campaign completed for the solar car, the business is currently valued at $69.9 million.

When the Sion launches, it will come with a price tag of $18,200. Owners of the solar vehicle must commit to a monthly fee in order to use the battery packs.

Solar Charging Challenges

Sono Motors still has a long way to go, before the prototype is ready for commercial markets. At the moment, the white version of the solar car looks unfinished, with the panel's components loosely sticking out of the frames. Furthermore, the vehicle's interior has been stripped to accommodate testing. In-car controls are facilitated by a tablet-like panel.

As for the car's charging features, the automaker has not released information about how the vehicle will manage between solar and electric. It is likely that the units will heavily rely on electric charging, even during the summer.

This is because long-term exposure to sunlight can cause the inside of the vehicle to heat up, making rides extremely uncomfortable. As a result, drivers may rather keep the solar car parked under the shade, while connected to a public charging station, compared to leaving the vehicle out in the scorching, mid-afternoon sun.

"The problem with integrating solar cells on cars is that they are not guaranteed to be in an optimized position to capture sunlight, which is generally what you want for solar cells," highlighted Fred Lambert from Electrek.

"A car can be in a garage, parked in the shade of a building, or simply not well-positioned to be in sunlight during the most day-time hours as possible. It's why it's generally better to place solar cells in solar panels on a roof or in a field."

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