While the Dutch still struggle to keep their Lightyear solar car project on life support, Sion, the affordable German solar electric vehicle (SEV), is dead. Sono Motors decided to pull the plug on the Sion program just before entering pre-series production. It couldn’t convince new investors despite 45 000 reservations from potential clients.
However, the technology will survive in its B2B business to retrofit trucks and other vehicles. “Given the resource-intensive nature of the Sion program, including personnel requirements, we are now implementing a significant cost reduction program, including the redundancy of approximately 300 employees,” the company says in a press release.
Underestimating the difficulty of finding investors
The co-founders claim various circumstances, not all within their sphere of influence, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to the current situation. The instability of the financial markets makes investors hesitate to invest in a capital-intensive hardware product.
And they point at the German government that wasn’t willing to subsidize the project enough, as only 1% of the 330 million euros raised since 2016 came from them. But they admit another factor was they underestimated how difficult it is to raise the necessary funds, which caused delays in the planning, losing more money.
Paying back deposits
End of January, the creators of the Sion solar car tried to buy more time to survive by extending its #savesion campaign until the end of February 2023. “As talks with potential investors are in progress,” the founders announced in a press release and a video. It turned out to be all in vain.
Still, from the 45 000 reservations for the Sion solar car, there were 21 000 private ones with deposits, of which 1 500 joined last two months. They won’t get the solar car they dreamed of but are promised not to lose money. The company says it has a payback plan to reimburse in various installments, including a bonus over the next two years, starting with the first installment in May 2023.
Continuing B2B business
To be able to do that, Sono Motors counts on continuing its successful side business, retrofitting vehicles for B2B clients. A business that will, from now on, be the core of the company to market its solar technology.
Putting solar panels on top of long trucks or buses makes more sense than on a small passenger car. Even though it will never deliver enough power on its own, it can extend the range of a battery-electric truck or power refrigeration. Today’s customers include Mitsubishi Europe, CHEREAU, and two Volkswagen subsidiaries – Scania and MAN Truck & Bus. For buses, Sono Motors is working on prepping its ‘Solar Bus Kit’ for retrofitting, planned for the second quarter of 2023.
Future is solar
“The potential of our technology has been validated not only by our commercial partnerships but also by the European Union,” the company states. The latter granted a fund of €1,46 million to advance Sono Motor’s proprietary solar technology development with 52 registered patents.
“This is not the end. The future is solar. For a world without fossil fuels,” said Jona Christians and his friend Laurin Hahn, the co-founders and CEOs who started their ‘dream’ literally in a garage box in Munich.
Ready to join the conversation?
You must be an active subscriber to leave a comment.