The Sion, Sono Motors’ solar-supporting car, is gearing up to hit the streets. On Wednesday, the Munich-based firm announced plans to start producing the radical electric vehicle in the second half of 2020, with production hosted at the National Electric Vehicle Sweden facilities in Trollhättan. The facility previously hosted the now-defunct automaker Saab.
“In NEVS, we found the perfect partner for us,” Thomas Hausch, chief operating officer of Sono Motors, said in a statement. “Together, we share a vision of intelligent and resource-conserving mobility. We also value our partner’s specific expertise based on their many years of experience in traditional automobile development and production in combination with proven expertise in the area of electromobility.”
The company has big plans to bring its solar car to the roads, following its major redesign back in March. The first version is expected to cost €25,000 ($28,351) for a five-door, five-seat car with 158 miles of WLTP-tested range from a 35-kilowatt-hour battery. The solar panels around the car add 21 miles per day — Sono Motors notes that the average German commutes just 10 miles per day, meaning it’s possible to run many commutes off sunlight. The vehicle also supports 50 kilowatts of charging over DC power.
The amount of range collected by the car, of course, varies by the amount of sunlight:
Sono Motors plans to produce 260,000 vehicles over an eight-year production period. The company plans to make 43,000 cars per year in two-shift operations once the initial manufacturing ramp-up is completed. By comparison, Tesla makes around 1,000 Model S vehicles per week, meaning the Sion will roll off the production line at a slightly slower pace but enough to potentially make a big splash in the market.
Another similarity between Tesla and Sono Motors is a focus on renewables in production. Sono plans to use 100 percent clean energy to build the Sion. Tesla, which is currently building the Gigafactory behemoth in the Nevada desert, has similar goals by outfitting its factory with solar panels.
Sono has packed the Sion with a number of unique features, like a moss-based air filtration system that the company claims can filter up to 20 percent particulate matter from the air. It also offers bi-directional charging, with a normal household plug that can power electronic devices up to 3.7 kilowatts. These rates jump to 11 kilowatts when paired with a Type 2 plug. It’s sufficient to get another electric car on the move.
The specs are just about ideal for a regular commute. It offers a top speed of 87 mph, 0 to 60 mph times of around nine seconds, and a three-phase synchronous motor that offers up to 120 kilowatts of power and 290 Newton-meters of torque.
While solar panels are an uncommon sight on electric cars — Tesla CEO Elon Musk dismissed them as “not that helpful” — Sono’s first foray could prove there’s life in alternatives to grid charging.