“We failed,” say Jona Christians and his friend Laurin Hahn, the co-founders and CEOs of German Sono Motors, who laid the foundation for the company’s first vehicle, the Sion solar car, in a garage in Munich in 2016.
In a remarkable campaign, they call up to at least 3 500 of the 21 000 holders of a reservation for the car to make a full downpayment to save it from extinction. “We failed to raise enough money. We failed to explain to investors why the Sion is truly needed and that there is a huge demand for it,” they posted on the website.
Extending range by 112 km
Sono Motors presented the Sion in 2017, and the manufacturer has been able to record over 21 000 pre-orders with a €500 down payment for this car, listed at €29 000 in Germany (VAT included). It’s not in production yet. Manufacturing would start somewhere in 2023 at the former Saab plant in Trollhättan, Sweden, with deliveries in 2024.
The Sion is a five-seat family car with solar cells integrated into the roof and the hood. It has a liquid-cooled battery with a capacity of 54 kWh, which enables it to drive up to 305 km on a single charge. The solar panels add 112 km to that range on average, up to 245 km per week, they claim.
Now the Sion is threatened in its very existence before the first production car is built. After releasing the SVC2, the second generation prototypes, says Sono Motors, which grew to 418 member crew, “it is well underway with a fleet of its successor, generation 3 or series-validation vehicles.”
Apparently, the funding of €264 million after going public in the US on Nasdaq isn’t sufficient. They make a desperate call on the website: “To make matters worse, we are living through multiple global crises, causing most investors to avoid taking risks and look toward more mature companies.”
“They are telling us not to build the car, to restructure the company, and to lay off 70% of our people. To refund the Community and to disregard the Sion and our reservation holders. But, for us, this simply can’t be an option. Not without giving our Community the chance to make a move. That’s why we kicked off this campaign. We are committed to #savesion.”
Hoping for a domino effect
So the founders now call on the 21 000 people who said to be interested in buying the car to make a commitment by fully doing the downpayment or by helping to raise more money to increase the downpayment they already did.
If 3 500 of them are willing to do that, they think they can convince other investors to go on with the project. In exchange, they will get a €3 000 rebate on the car’s list price. And if the campaign fails, they won’t have to pay.
“If we can reach the campaign goal and raise enough money, we can trigger a positive domino effect. Your downpayment, which represents both your money and your trust in us, we believe will enable us to continue to find new investors as well as to pay for the remaining machinery, tooling, and production set-up to achieve the planned pre-series production in 2023 and make it to a high-volume start of production in 2024,” they say.